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This project was funded by the Academy of Finland in 2018-2022 and it was based at the University of Helsinki. Research was conducted on how speakers manage to produce complex clausal patterns (complex sentences, compound sentences, subordinated clauses) in real-time spoken conversation. The central tenet is that these complex structures of language emerge bit by bit, out of partly prefabricated bits of language. Syntax and grammar are thus seen as a process from the speaker’s point of view, rather than as a product that has a determined trajectory from the onset to the end. Language structures that are produced in this emergent way may have more diversified looks than those example structures that are commonly presented as representative cases in grammar books. 

The project has two major components: a) a study of Swedish talk-in-interaction and b) a comparative study involving Estonian, French, Italian and Hebrew with international sister projects working on these languages. In our co-operation we engaged in cross-linguistic and cross-cultural pragmatic research. The analyses take the micro-level of linguistic and interactional processes as its starting point. The discovery processes draw on time-tested conversation analytic principles, closely studying participants’ turn-construction and the recipients’ subsequent understandings in video-recorded interaction.

Different languages, although deploying different structural resources, reflect some basic contingencies of social interaction in similar ways, e.g. turn-taking, action projection and expansion, and self-repair. On the other hand, it is not necessarily the case that social actions are identical or identically distributed across all cultures; correspondencies between action and grammatical pattern also distribute differently in languages. We found evidence for cross-linguistic strucutral and functional convergencies and divegencies in studies of, for example, pseudo-cleft constructions, clausal and multimodal turn expansions, and in the formation of second assessments. For more on our research, see Publications.

The general objectives, both regarding component A (a study of Swedish) and component B (cross-language comparison), of the project are as follows:

  • To scrutinize emergence in interaction
  • To analyze turn and action design
  • To study discourse vs. grammatical motivation
  • To compare L1 and L2 production in clause-combining practices