Analyzing Multimodal Interaction: A Methodological Framework

Analyzing Multimodal Interaction: A Methodological Framework

Analyzing Multimodal Interaction: A Methodological Framework

Analyzing Multimodal Interaction: A Methodological Framework


Our perception of our everyday interactions is shaped by more than what is said. From coffee with friends to interviews, meetings with colleagues and conversations with strangers, we draw on both verbal and non-verbal behaviour to judge and consider our experiences. Analyzing Multimodal Interaction is a practical guide to understanding and investigating the multiple modes of communication, and provides an essential guide for those undertaking field work in a range of disciplines, including linguistics, sociology, education, anthropology and psychology. The book offers a clear methodology to help the reader carry out their own integrative analysis, equipping them with the tools they need to analyze a situation from different points of view. Drawing on research into conversational analysis and non-verbal behaviour such as body movement and gaze, it also considers the role of the material world in our interactions, exploring how we use space and objects - such as our furniture and clothes - to express ourselves. Considering a range of real examples, such as traffic police officers at work, doctor-patient meetings, teachers and students, and friends reading magazines together, the book offers lively demonstrations of multimodal discourse at work.Illustrated throughout and featuring a mini-glossary in each chapter, further reading, and advice on practical issues such as making transcriptions and video and audio recordings, this practical guide is an essential resource for anyone interested in the multiple modes of human interaction.


This book is an attempt to explicate a methodological framework for the analysis of human interaction in its vast complexity. With a foundation in discourse analysis, interactional sociolinguistics, mediated discourse analysis, and multimodality, I cross the boundaries between linguistics, nonverbal behavior, and the material world.

Language is of particular interest to the study of human interaction, as the mode has great informative as well as expressive value. This mode is probably the best understood mode so far. Yet people in interaction seldom communicate only through language. A person takes up a certain kind of distance to others, takes up a particular posture, gestures while speaking, and at times gazes at the interlocutor.

Modes like gesture, gaze, or posture have generally been termed nonverbal modes of communication. However, I will steer away from this expression, as nonverbal conveys that these are appendages to the verbal mode. If the so-called nonverbal modes were actually appendages to language, these modes would always have to be subordinate to language. However, this is not the case. Modes like gesture, gaze, or posture can play a superordinate or an equal role to the mode of language in interaction, and therefore, these modes are not merely embellishments to language. In this book, I only refer to these modes as nonverbal when I want to point out which generally accepted fields of study I am working in. But, exclusive of this, I use the term embodied modes: a term that refers to gesture as well as to language, showing that the modes are generally of an equal value, and allowing the analyst to decide which mode (if any) plays a superior role in a particular interaction.

All interactions take place in the material world, and the material world plays a role in every interaction. With material world I do not only mean the setting that the interaction takes place in, but also the material world that people in interaction utilize. People are dressed in a certain way, they eat, they listen to music, and they read magazines. All of this may be a part of an interaction. I call modes like music, print, or layout disembodied modes. These modes can also take on a superordinate role in interaction, and they can "overrule" embodied modes.

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