Prosody, Experientiation, Enaction

Auchlin Antoine
Language of the article : French
DOI: n/a
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The present paper wants to show the extent to which prosody, or best, prosodies, as Firth (1948) put it, contribute in their own and specific ways to enaction, at various levels of operational closure.

On the one hand prosodies (stress, accent, melody) are linked to speech and exchange in a non-escapable fashion, as opposed to gesture for example. Hearing speech implies hearing syllables, tones, intensity variations; it does not imply seeing face or gesture (though one may object the language-dependency of prosody – gesture pairings). Simon & Auchlin (2004) described the independent timings of parameters, such as pitch range, height and intensity, speech rate: the first two or three syllables of speech alone inform on speaker sex, age, mood, investment in speech, importance of speech for her, or intentionality; the meaning of the whole utterance is obtained much later, thus the first flow somehow frames the second which, in turn, may allow blending with previously accessed information. In that way, linguistic meaning incorporates prosodic manifestations.

On the other hand, one of the most basic prosodic dimensions, namely speech rate (articulation rate + pauses) is properly speaking a shared dimension between speaker and hearer: no one can hear slowly, or more rapidly than the speaker speaks. Speech rate is properly un-escapable, or necessarily shared dimension in dialogue. Indeed, interpreting is constantly anticipating – but anticipations timing still depends upon speech rate.

Note that speech rate is also un-escapable for the observer, provided (s)he enacts the discourse, turning herself into a participant in the piece of interaction (s)he wants to describe (Auchlin, 1999). Sharing the temporal grid, i.e. entering it, is essential to such participation. This may sound like a piece of trivial evidence - it did not attract much attention up to now.

Indeed, interactionists' work (P. Auer, E. Couper-Kuhlen, F. Müller; M. Selting; J. Local, i.a.) precisely describe verbal interactions' ballet temporality. Yet, their descriptive claim, which constrains empirical work, deliberately rejects any kind of theoretical conclusion or generalization; and their need to 'objectively' describe speech events firmly contradicts what is mandatory for the enactive approach, namely the epistemological experientialist turn, first posited by Lakoff & Johnson (1980).

The present paper examines a couple of emblematic cases of prosodic enacting meaning experience that should contribute to grounding the concept, both on its epistemological and its empirical sides.

Pour citer cet article :

Auchlin Antoine (2017/2). Prosody, Experientiation, Enaction. In Bottineau D. & Grégoire M. (Eds), Language and enaction: embodiment, environment, experience, learning, Intellectica, 68, (pp.99-122), DOI: n/a.