Indexation | The quality of speech being linked to an external event that it follows, points to, comments, supports, or orders, and from which it draws its formal properties, notably rhythmic ones.

Speech is indexed to an external event to the extent that both share a certain duration, a course of action that the speaker is bound to in some way. Sports commentary is thus a form of speech whose form and existence are directly due to the event it comments. This is the case with c/node/9397 and soccer commentary: accelerating output, decreasing details at crucial moments, intensity: the more breathless the commentary, the more listeners will get the impression they are actually present at such race or such game (see also Medal wa mieta).

Indexation could also be described as follows: speaker A shares, represents, and transmits their speech over the course of action B, with speaker C present. Thus, the horse race (B) is related by a commentator (A) for spectators (C). The object of indexation thus takes shape through the movements of an inanimate object, the actions of a human or group of humans, the actions of a human on a horse, the horse itself, and the field streaming by because of humans carrying out their actions on horses which make up something of interest for spectators and commentators.

A typical example of indexation can be found in this excerpt of a “real-time” description of General De Gaulle’s trip and welcome to Québec. A great number of situations lend themselves to this kind of action, such as reports, reaction videos, auctions. We have also found this case of a controversial description of gestures for deaf and mute persons (see also Capturer un groupe de macque rhésus femelles, Le premier signal, Look at that big change, The best culinary magic trick, We call this a capitulation, and Attentat à Jerusalem).

Based on these typical cases, we can distinguish between several other cases that make up the collection:


Occurs when A and B are mixed up—that is, when a speaker (A) describes an action (B) they are carrying out to a third person (C). I represent myself in action to a spectator through speech. Thus, in this excerpt of a documentary on Alfred Cortot, the great pianist shows a young lady the “dreamy” way that he believes Schumann’s piece The Poet Speaks should be played. Or, in this harmonic analysis, taken from a recording about learning how to play guitar, Valérie Duchâteau comments on a Bach score over her very own recording of the prelude.

Such is also the case in this excerpt of a cooking show, this dance class, this mathematics lesson, and this more domestic tutorial (see also Ocho cortado).


Occur when B and C are mixed up, that is to say when the action described is carried out by the person speaker A is addressing: thus, in this recording, an owner (A) gives instructions (B) to his dog, who is the recipient (C) of his speech. The three orders “Lie down!” “Sit!” and “Stand!” depend upon the dog’s response. In this case, the indexation is reciprocal, because the recipient of the speech retroactively acts upon the speaker, like this boxing coach or this conductor (see also Nur der Fluß ist weg). This relationship to indexation can thus produce the impression that the event described is being mutually constructed, another example being this recording of a game of Pictionary or the turmoil of giving birth (see also Montre ce que tu sais faire, Vas-y Isabelle). In this family of cases, one can also find the example of propping someone up, of saying “repeat after me” (Un bon citoyen and I, Barack Hussein Obama).


When A and C are mixed up, that is to say when a speaker (A) describes and comments on an action (B) they are witnessing for themselves (C). In his Tentative de description de choses vues au carrefour Mabillon le 19 mai 1978, Georges Perec, standing in public, makes oral notes about “what happens when nothing is happening, apart from time, people, cars, and clouds.” This is also the case in a poem where Klaus Groh counts drops. The stating of each drop’s rank is indexed to the rhythm of its fall, leaving silence between each statement that cannot be mastered (see also Un pompon jaune, un pompon rouge, un pompon bleu).


When A, B, and C are mixed up, that is to say when a speaker (A) comments on an action (B) they are carrying out for themselves (C). In this excerpt of the film Mesrine, for example, a police inspector (A) reads what he is typing (B) aloud for himself (C) (see also the borderline case of Ah-Hooooh).

This occurrence of writing while reading aloud, as if for oneself, is quite common—another example can be found in this scene from real life. But it seems clear that this kind of action, when carried out in public, takes its public nature into account. The excerpt just cited would thus be an example of the current sub-category but also a case of what we have called explanation. Indeed, the sub-categories described above are not mutually exclusive. A player in a game can both follow their own actions and those of other players; a composer telling a tale can both comment on what they are doing and describe it as an almost external action that has already taken place. Finally, one can see how observations for oneself and instructions to cameramen are intermingled in a stage control room, or how certain activities such as flying together require both concentration on oneself and concentration expressed to others.


Bola fora

Excerpt from a soccer commentary, 2017.

Faut toucher Mogded

Excerpt from a boxing training for children, YouTube, 2013.

Fais l'abeille

Excerpt from a boxing training for children, YouTube, 2013.

Attention à la mousse !

Arrival of a skating race at the Strasbourg Europe Races, YouTube video, 2008.

J’ai très envie de me résoudre

André Manoukian, excerpt from the radio show Les routes de la musique, France Inter, 2016.

Porté aux nues par la superstar

Nikos Aliagas, excerpt from The Voice season 6, 2017.

Toute la panoplie d’accessoires

Camelot on the market of Choisy-le-Roi, YouTube, 2015.

Vittu ! Satana !

Monologue of a man sitting on his couch, Youtube video, 2014.

Otvori pleshkite!

Training session of the Bulgarian national rhythmic gymnastics team, bulgarian television, 2012