The challenges of multimodality and multi-sensoriality: Methodological issues in analyzing tactile signed interaction

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Reflecting on the challenges of capturing and analyzing the multimodal complexity of human interactions, this paper examines the potentials of Conversation Analysis (CA) methods for illuminating the language and social interaction of deafblind signers, who operate with alternative resources in interaction. Generally, human interaction is managed through the rich and continuous flow of multimodal information and relies on simultaneous use of vocal-auditive and visuo-spatial resources to establish and coordinate interaction. CA can help us analyze how deafblind interactants who have no access to such resources manage to coordinate interaction, initiating, sustaining, and terminating social encounters. In this study, the primary modes and resources that deafblind interactants employ for communication are a tactile form of Australian Sign Language (Auslan) and haptic sensations that they experience and generate. Despite the limited range of modalities available, deafblind participants orient to the turn-taking mechanisms proposed by CA frameworks for spoken interaction. This paper considers the involvement of entire bodies in social interaction, addressing an audio and visual basis for communication. This study increases understanding of interaction through multi-sensory resources and bodily conduct that constitute the intersubjective worlds of deafblind interlocutors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-227
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019


  • Auslan
  • Multimodality
  • Sensoriality
  • Sign language
  • Tactile
  • Touch

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