Interspecific linguistics: Human-animal relationships in interaction, grammar and text

The project sheds light on the interactional and conceptual organization of human and non-human communities from a linguistic perspective. Human-animal studies have become an important field of research in social sciences and humanities during the last decades. Philosophical and literary studies, for example, have identified the important role of language in cultural constructions of agency and other categories. Our project proposes to give a more visible role to research in social interaction and grammatical constructions in the interdisciplinary discussion concerning human-animal relationships and, more specifically, in the ecolinguistic approach, investigating the role of language in interactions of humans, other species and physical environment.

Project objectives

The results of the project studies contribute to our understanding of the complex relationships between humans and members of other species. The focus is on 

  • The social actions accomplished by participants in interspecific interaction: How do human and non-human participants display their orientation to the sequential environment?
  • The linguistic strategies adopted by human speakers when addressing a member of another species: Are there words and expressions reserved for non-human addressees and what kind of an interface separates the « human-to-human language » from the « human-to-non-human language »?
  • The ways in which the plurality of subjective universes and the existence of interspecific communities is linguistically construed and recognized: What can we say about « human » and « non-human » categories and conceptualizations when looking at grammatical constructions in actual language use and in different types of texts? What kind of cultural, political and ideological factors shape the ways in which humans talk about other species? 

Research topics

The project is a meeting point for different theoretical and methodological approaches. Three partly overlapping dimensions can be identified:

  1. Interspecific interaction from a conversation analytic perspective: social actions, sequential organization and human language use
    Katariina Harjunpää, Mika Simonen
  2. Interspecific encounters, interaction and communities in grammatical constructions and conceptual categories
    Anni Jääskeläinen, Lea Laitinen, Rea Peltola
  3. Non-human animals in texts and discourses
    Ilona Herlin, Ella Vihelmaa

The project is funded by Kone Foundation (2019-2021). You can reach the project by sending email to Dr. Rea Peltola (