Embodied displacements in young German children’s storytelling

Layering of spaces, voices and bodies

  • Vivien Heller Bergische Universität Wuppertal
Keywords: narration, displacement, depictive gestures, enactment, affect display, picture book reading, discourse acquisition


This paper is concerned with embodied processes of joint imagination in young children’s narrative interactions. Based on Karl Bühler’s notion of ‘deixis in the imagination’, it examines in detail how a 19-month-old German-speaking child, engaged in picture book reading with his mother, brings about different subtypes of deixis in the imagination by either ‘displacing’ what is absent into the given order of perception (e.g. by using the hand as a token for an object) or displacing his origo to an imagined space (e.g. by kinaesthetically aligning his body with an imagined body and animating his movements). Drawing on multimodal analysis and the concept of layering in interaction, the study analyses the ways in which the picture book as well as deictic, depictive, vocal and lexical resources are coordinated to evoke a narrative space, co-enact the storybook character’s experiences and produce reciprocal affect displays. Findings demonstrate that different types of displacement are in play quite early in childhood; displacements in the dimension of space and person are produced through layerings of spaces, voices and bodies.

Author Biography

Vivien Heller, Bergische Universität Wuppertal

Vivien Heller is professor in German linguistics and their didactics at Wuppertal University. She received her PhD in linguistics from Dortmund University on genre repertoires and argumentative discourse practices in families and classrooms. Her research interests include embodied and interactive resources in (language) learning, classroom interaction, and interactive processes of inclusion/exclusion. Recent publications focused on the interplay of gaze and epistemic stance-taking in children’s collaborative reasoning, epistemic ecologies in the classroom and academic discourse practices.


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How to Cite
Heller, V. (2019). Embodied displacements in young German children’s storytelling. Research on Children and Social Interaction, 3(1-2), 168-195. https://doi.org/10.1558/rcsi.37311