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I S S U E    N O .    55   [April 2015]

Peter Auer & Ina Hörmeyer

Achieving intersubjectvity in Augmented and Alternative Communication (AAC): Intercorporeal, embodied and disembodied practices

In this paper we investigate communication which includes the use of computer-based speech aids by people with severe cerebral palsy (Augmented and Alternative Communication, AAC). The reduced bodily capacities and the 'uncontrolled bodies' of the participants suffering from CP make bodily synchronization with their partners a considerable challenge. What is more, the electronic speech aid not only produces a disembodied language (synthetic speech), but also has a massive impact on the mutual corporeal attunement of the participants. It slows down the production of turns to such a degree that sequential structure – and hence also mutual understanding – are in danger of being destroyed, and it brings about the Augmented/Alternative Communicator's withdrawal from the ongoing focused interaction. It will be shown that these detrimental effects of AAC can lead to a breakdown in temporal, sequential and topical structure, and to interactional failure and lack of understanding. However, we will also be shown that there are ways to overcome these risks. On the one hand, the negative impact of the 'talking machine' can be minimized when the user reduces the time needed to output speech by refraining from putting together complex utterances; this strategy requires co-participants' willingness and competence to integrate the machine-produced semantic hint into a sequence of 'post-processing'. Another way of meeting the challenges and risks of a 'talking machine' is a 'moderator' who channels and controls co-participants' activities despite the Augmented/Alternative Communicator's focus on the machine, even during the production of a complex utterance. In both ways, the machine can be 'embodied', and the interaction can – despite CP – become an 'intercorporeal' one.


Keywords: Augmented /Alternative Communication, intersubjectivity, intercorporeality, embodiment, multimodal conversation analysis

 To cite this publication:
Auer, Peter; Hörmeyer, Ina: Achieving intersubjectivity in Augmented and Alternative Communication (AAC): Intercorporeal, embodied and disembodied practices. InLiSt - Interaction and Linguistic Structures, No. 55, April 2015, URL: http://www.inlist.uni-bayreuth.de/issues/55/index.htm



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Institute of German Studies, University of Freiburg


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