Liminal Utterances CREM ICTM 2015 logoThe intention of this colloquium on Liminal utterances is to discuss "hands on", with as many audio and video examples as possible. The Multimedia Presentations are an experiment in that direction. Presenters were invited to combine audiovisual data and analysis in order to produce a (more-or-less) self-standing video file containing an argument or simply raising questions about the illustrated sound practices. These files are available below. They will also be played during the conference, where each of them will be followed by extensive discussion sessions with their authors.

Click on an image below to start a presentation (HTML5 video).

Between Speech and Song: Liminal utterances of sadness in Anatolia and the Caucasus


This presentation explores the practice of melodized speech in the Caucasus and Anatolia. Taking as a case study the Yezidi Kurds in Armenia, it explains why this practice, linked to the narration of sad events, stands at the border between speech and song in the local typology of vocal production. On a wider area, the comparison of three case studies from fieldwork conducted in Azerbaijan, Turkey and Armenia shows how elderly women integrate melodized speech in daily conversations. Beyond religious, national and linguistic differences, the similarity of these practices suggests a shared social-vocal nexus in Anatolia and the Caucasus.

The vocality of a religious poem among the Pomaks

EFTYCHIA DROUTSA (Iremus/University Paris 4 Sorbonne, France)

This work questions “vocality”, that is the sound production of speech and song among the Pomaks through their religious poem called mevlud.

Dating from the 15th century, the mevlud is a poem attributed to the poet Suleyman Çelebi, in which he relates the birth, the life and the death of the Prophète Mohamed. It is written in osmanli (Othoman, ancient Turkish in arabic characters) in the poetic form of masnavi, structured in a series of versified distiches where each verse adheres on a metric regularity of eleven syllables. We find this poem among Pomaks, a mountain population, muslim and trilingual, who speaktheir own Slavic dialect - Pomak -, Greek and Turkish. They live in the north of Greece in the area of Thrace and are recognized officially as “a religious minority” by the Greek Government. Pomaks learn to read the mevlud, on which they adapt a repetitive motif borrowed, modified and customized according to individual preferences and abilities. However, most of them do not understand the literal meaning of the poetic text. It is in this particular context, where the words are detached from their litteral meaning and become a medium for statement, that we will approach the duality of speech and song through a sound editing, where the words are sung, whispered, muttered, recited or simply said.

Ferdinand Brunot and the Archives de la Parole

FRANÇOIS PICARD (Iremus, University Paris 4 Sorbonne, France)

The Archives de la Parole or Spoken Archives have been founded by the French historian of French language and grammarian Ferdinand Brunot at Sorbonne university in 1911. Using a Pathéphone phonograph, he recorded spoken or singing voices, he classified in main sections: I for “interprètes”, O for “orateurs”, L for «langues”, D for “dialectes”. Taking it as a solid corpus, we analyse it using digital tools according to the relation between pitch, intensity and timbre, and find it possible through strong descriptors to recover local, culturally meaningful, categories. The question of whether this new categorisation could be universal will be asked.sessions.

Development of turn taking in vocal interaction between mothers and infants aged between 2 and 4 months

RUBIA INFANTI & EBRU YILMAZ (Laboratoire Ethologie, Cognition, Development -EA 3456-, University Paris-West, France)

Infants are known to engage in conversation-like exchanges from the end of the second month after birth. These ‘protoconversations’ involve both turn-taking and overlapping vocalization. Previous research has shown that the timing of adult-infant turn-taking sequences is close to that of adult verbal conversation. The gap between turns in protoconversational exchange seldom exceeds 500ms. It has also been shown that young infants adjust the quality of their vocalization in response to the quality and timing of adult vocalization. Furthermore, turn-taking exchanges often involve mutual imitation of sounds, pitches and melodic contour. We present new evidence of the timing and temporal organization of turn-taking interaction between mothers and 2 to 4-month-olds recorded in naturalistic contexts based on a corpus of recordings from 50 French dyads. All of them were recorded in naturalistic contexts, in their home, when infants were in a quiet alert state. The entire sample comprised a total of 2943 vocalizations of which 748 (25.4%) were produced by the infants, 1851 (62.9%) were produced by the mothers, and 344 were overlapping vocalizations (11.7%). In all, 489 turns taking sequences were identified. The quality and duration of infant vocalizations differed according to whether or not they were produced within a turn-taking sequence. Finally, length and number of turns were highly correlated between mothers and infants vocalizations.

Sung assemblies or declaimed songs? The samburu soloists (Kenya) on the border between political discussion and musical activity


Among the Samburu of Kenya the leaders and the spokesmen of the warriors' age-grade, the so-called larikok, play a fundamental role in both political and musical domains. The oratorical skills of which they must be provided to protect the interests of the warriors during the assemblies, core of the Samburu political system, also allow them to stand out as main soloists during the singing and dancing. This double form of authority is based on what, among the Samburu, is considered as one of the essential features of male leadership: the ability of “dominating the words” in all their forms, both sung and spoken. At the same time, this connection between political debate and soloist singing is not focused exclusively on the double social role of the larikok. The vocal technique that characterizes a big part of the Samburu's musical repertoire, in fact, is definable as a form of speech shaped around the rhythm of the dance. It confers to the melodic contour of the soloist's part the prosodic characteristics of the spoken language, making Samburu choral songs a sort of oratorical confrontation between soloists, very close, structurally and verbally, to the assemblies' debate scheme. The process of decision-making and the composition of the songs' lyrics lead, in both cases, to the creation of accounts which aim to expose opinions and stories based on real events. But if during the assemblies the speakers' purpose is to use their own charisma for the political administration of the community as representatives of an age-grade's or an age-set's interests, during the singing and dancing sessions the soloists have the responsibility to stand for their age-group and share with the listeners the narrative of its collective memory, contributing to assert its presence within the society.

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