Photo of Leelo Keevallik

Leelo Keevallik

Deputy Head of Department, Professor

I am interested in how people make sense of each other, not only through language and grammar but also by using their bodies, artefacts, and movement. I do multimodal analysis of dance classes, pilates instruction, and manual work.

Interactional linguistics, embodiment, and dance instruction

Leelo Keevallik works in the field of interactional linguistics and multimodal interaction analysis, exploring the sequentiality of social action and the temporal nature of grammar.

She has published on the development and use of pragmatic particles, features of grammar, such as projection, clause combining, clitics, and reduplication, as well as prosody in interaction. Having re-interpreted the function of pro-forms and deixis in real-time embodied contexts, she is currently looking into practices of coordinating grammar with the body. The focus is on non-lexical vocalizations, such as strain grunts, pain cries, gustatory mms, and sounds deployed by dance instructors or robots. Couple dance.

Research interests 

  • Emergent grammar
  • Interactional linguistics
  • Conversation analysis
  • Multimodality
  • Multisensoriality
  • Non-lexical vocalizations

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Non-lexical Vocalizations: An introduction

Why study human vocalizations? In this video we explain how and why non-lexical vocalizations are useful tools of communication, among other things with infants and robots.

Why do you grunt at the gym?

People use several vocalizations to communicate that they, e.g., like the food or are unhappy about a game move. The sounds are tied to bodily experiences and feelings. In this video you will learn how we understand each other without words.

The spoken language in this filmclip is Swedish.


Cover of publication 'Book cover'
Leelo Keevallik (2024)

New Perspectives on Goffman in Language and Interaction , s.143-169 Continue to DOI

Cover of publication 'Bookcoover'
Leelo Keevallik (2021)

Linguistics Vanguard , Vol.7 Continue to DOI

Cover of publication 'Sketch, bookcoover.'
Leelo Keevallik (2018)

Research on Language and Social Interaction , Vol.51 Continue to DOI


Leelo Keevallik, Emily Hofstetter, Agnes Löfgren, Sally Wiggins Young (2024) Repetition for real-time coordination of action: Lexical and non-lexical vocalizations in collaborative time management Discourse Studies Continue to DOI
Leelo Keevallik (2024) Strain grunts and the organization of participation New Perspectives on Goffman in Language and Interaction, p. 143-169 Continue to DOI


Leelo Keevallik, Sally Wiggins Young (2023) Sounds of disgust: Young children's non-lexical orientations to food during shared mealtimes
Leelo Keevallik, Anna Vatanen (2023) Vaikusest Kahtlus ja mõttemäss: Pühendusteos Tiit Hennoste 70. sünnipäevaks, p. 144-158
Leelo Keevallik, Adrian Kerrison (2023) Self-talk The Encyclopedia of Terminology for Conversation Analysis and Interactional Linguistics Continue to DOI



Emergent Syntax Book cover leelo Emergent Syntax for Conversation

Syntax emerges in human interaction. In this volume we study complex clauses in their everyday use and discuss functional reasons for their structuring.


Multimodal interaktionsanalys bokomslag-leelo-Multimodal interaktionsanalys

This is a textbook for advanced level students who are interested in human communication. It provides the methodological basics of interaction analysis and offers insights into research on language, psychology, sociology, teaching, and human-robot as well as human-animal interaction.

Sounds on the Margins of Language Book cover - leelo

We explore the use of non-lexical vocalizations to show how people use them for meaning-making, such as for performing various physical and mental states. Occasionally they are more effective than words.


Supervision of PhD students