Volume 3   Number 1      Fall 2008

Liminal Spaces and Narratives of Voice and Body in Infant Vocal Internchange (Commentary on Morioka)
Maya Gratier
Université Paris X – Nanterre, France
pp. 143-154   (pdf)

ABSTRACT. This paper explores the heuristic value of the Japanese concepts utushi and ma, as they are described by Masayoshi Morioka (2008), for the study of vocal interaction between young infants and adults. Intersubjective engagement between infants and communicative partners is thought to be based on a subtle attunement of temporally organised gesture and vocal expression. Voice is seen as a fundamental matrix for cultural belonging rooted in biological motives for sharing experience before and beyond the symbolic meanings of language-based communication. The process of everyday spontaneous vocal interchange between infants and close others, situated within increasingly familiar social and cultural frames, thickens intersubjective experience. The infant voice acquires a ‘grain’ and polyphonic cultural overtones. It is proposed that the semiotic processes of cultural grounding in early infancy are based on a ‘communicative musicality’ (Malloch, 1999) that supports nonverbal narrative meaning-making involving well-coordinated expression of voice and body in playful motivated exchange.


Keywords: Mother-infant interaction, voice, narrative, intersubjectivity, musicality