Volume 1, Issue 2
  • ISSN 2666-4224
  • E-ISSN: 2666-4232



The lip-smack is a communicative sound object that has received very little research attention, with most work examining their occurrence in nonhuman primate interaction. The current paper aims to dissect the social potential of lip-smacks in human interaction. The analysis examines a corpus of 391 lip-smack particles produced by English-speaking parents while feeding their infants. A multimodal interaction analysis details the main features: (1) rhythmical production in a series, (2) facial-embodied aspects, and (3) temporal organisation. Lip-smacks occurred in prosodically grouped chains of mostly 3 or 5 particles, with accompanying facial expressions, and were co-ordinated with the infants’ chewing. They highlight the mechanics of chewing while framing eating as a pleasant interactional event.

The paper contributes not only to the distinctly social functions of a sound object hitherto ignored in linguistics but also to research on interactional exchanges in early childhood and their potential connection to the sociality of nonhuman primates.

Available under the CC BY-NC 4.0 license.

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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): infant; interaction analysis; lip-smacks; multimodal; primate interaction; sound object
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