23.390, Review: Anthropological Linguistics, Cognitive Science, Disc. Analysis

Tue Jan 24 06:52:53 UTC 2012

LINGUIST List: Vol-23-390. Tue Jan 24 2012. ISSN: 1069 - 4875.

Subject: 23.390, Review: Anthropological Linguistics, Cognitive Science, Disc. Analysis

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Date: 12-Jan-2012
From: Lauren Gawne [l.gawne at pgrad.unimelb.edu.au]
Subject: Integrating Gesture: The Interdisciplinary Nature of Gesture

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Date: Tue, 24 Jan 2012 01:50:47
From: Lauren Gawne [l.gawne at pgrad.unimelb.edu.au]
Subject: Integrating Gesture: The Interdisciplinary Nature of Gesture

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Announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/22/22-2847.html 

EDITORS: Gale Stam, Mika Ishino 
TITLE: Integrating Gesture
SUBTITLE: The Interdisciplinary Nature of Gesture
SERIES TITLE: Gesture Studies 4
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins 
YEAR: 2011

Lauren Gawne, School of Languages and Linguistics, The University of Melbourne


It has now become something of a cliche to say that the study of gesture has 
come a long way in the last couple of decades - but this volume shows just how 
far the field has come. The study of gesture as a phenomenon has been the focus 
of much work, but as ''Integrating Gestures'' shows so well, the study of gesture 
has implications for a wider range of fields, including conversation analysis, child 
language acquisition, cognitive linguistics and semantics, than just the study of 
gesture in and of itself. The volume contains wide ranging work from scholars 
across a range of gesture-studies methodologies and this is one of its major 
strengths. The volume contains twenty-six papers divided into six thematic parts, 
covering a diverse range of fields including the study of the functions of gestures 
(Part One), first language development (Part Two), second language use (Part 
Three), classroom interaction (Part Four), discourse and interaction (Part Five) and 
music and dance (Part Six). In this volume the observations of gestural action has 
helped further our understanding, not only of the nature of human gesture but also 
of its relationship with the wider linguistic system.

Part One, 'Nature and functions of gestures,' is comprised of seven papers. It 
starts with an introduction by Mika Ishino and Gale Stam, the two co-editors, who 
give a brief overview of the academic study of gesture and their definition of 
gesture, as well asa typology of gesture and a summary of the papers in this 
volume. In Chapter Two, 'Addressing the problems of intentionality and granularity 
in non-human primate gesture,'  Erica A. Cartmil  and Richard W. Byrn use an 
intentionality-focused model to assess the communicative use of gesture by 
captive orangutans, identifying 64 distinct gestures with 29 of those having 
specific predictable meanings. In the third chapter, 'Birth of a Morph,' David 
McNeill and Claudia Sowa examine narratives where the verbal channel is 
suppressed and how this differs from the use of co-speech gestures in narratives. 
They find that gestures in the absence of speech emerge as morphs, with 
standards of good form and syntagmatic values, while co-speech gestures do not. 
In Chapter 4, 'Dyadic evidence for grounding with abstract deictic gestures,' Janet 
Bavelas, Jennifer Gerwing, Meredith Allison, and Chantelle Sutton focus on the 
importance of the dyad and show that speakers are able to co-construct 
understanding with the use of abstract deictic gestures to represent the topic of 
conversation. The fifth chapter, 'If you don't already know, I'm certainly not going 
to show you!: Motivation to communicate affects gesture production,'  by Autumn 
B. Hostetter, Martha W. Alibali, and Sheree M. Schrager shows that the gestures 
produced by speakers can be influenced by the motivation they have to 
communicate information; in their study, people who thought they were 
communicating rules to a competitor in a game would give less gestural 
information than those who thought they were communicating rules to a team 
member. In Chapter Six, 'Measuring the formal diversity of hand gestures by their 
hamming distance,' Katharina Hogrefe, Wolfram Ziegler, and Georg Goldenberg 
look at the formal diversity of gestures without speech in non-Sign Language 
speakers. Using the Hamburg Notation System for Sign Languages, they find that 
gestures in the absence of speech exhibit greater formal diversity than co-speech 
gestures. In the final chapter of this section, '''Parallel gesturing'' in adult-child 
conversations,' Maria Graziano, Adam Kendon, and Carla Cristilli look at adult-
child dyads and find that children can, like adult, pay attention to gestures as well 
as words, but like any other component of language acquisition, the paralleling of 
gestures by children matures over time. The focus on interaction with children in 
this final chapter provides a nice bridge to the second part of the book.

Part Two, 'First language development and gesture,' is a collection of studies 
exploring what we can learn about language acquisition from looking at children's 
gestural mode. In Chapter Eight,  Claire D. Vallotton's analysis of preverbal infants 
shows that even without speech children can engage in conceptually focused 
communication consisting of multiple turns. Chapter Nine, 'Giving a nod to social 
cognition: Developmental constraints on the emergence of conventional gestures 
and infant signs,' uses the same data as Chapter Eight but moves from looking at 
the communicative function of gestures to focusing on the emergence of these 
gestures and signs in infants. Maria Fusaro and Claire D. Vallotton find that 
caregiver frequency of use and motoric complexity play a role, but not all gesture 
emergence can be explained by these two factors alone, such as the late 
emergence of head nodding and shaking. They argue that gestures have high 
social-cognitive complexity. The tenth chapter, 'Sensitivity of maternal gesture to 
interlocutor and context,' by Maria Zammit and Graham Schafer, looks at the use 
of gesture by mothers while communicating with their infants and with adults and 
then compares these uses. The authors find that mothers modify their gestures for 
their infants by using fewer gestures, most of them deictic rather than emphatic, 
which appears to scaffold word learning. In Chapter Eleven, 'The organization of 
children's pointing stroke endpoints,' Mats Andrén looks at the timing of children's 
use of co-speech deictic gestures. Andrén finds that while around two thirds of 
infant deictics show the same timing with speech as adult gestures, the other third 
is sustained for longer than the speech to which adults give more sustained 
responses. In Chapter Twelve, Şeyda Özçalışkan and Susan Goldin-Meadow ask 
the question 'Is there an iconic gesture spurt at 26 months?' They found a sharp 
increase in the number of spontaneous iconic gestures in children at this age, and 
like Zammit and Schafer in Chapter Ten, they found an increase in the number of 
child-directed gestures over time. Kazuki Sekine in Chapter Thirteen 'The 
development of spatial perspective in the description of large-scale environments' 
looks at the gestural information produced by young Japanese school children 
describing their route home and on how this can give us insight into their cognitive 
model of the environment. Chapter Fourteen, 'Learning to use gesture in narratives: 
Developmental trends in formal and semantic gesture competence,' by 
Olga Capirci, Carla Cristilli, V. De Angelis, and Maria Graziano looks at the 
development of gestures in narratives of Italian children, both in terms of the 
semantic and formal development of the gestures. The final chapter in this 
section, Chapter 15, 'The changing role of gesture form and function in a picture 
book interaction between a child with autism and his support teacher' is a 
qualitative study by Hannah Sowden, Mick Perkins, and Judy Clegg, in which they 
look in depth at a single interaction between an autistic boy and a care-giver. They 
argue that autistic children may have more complicated understanding of gestural 
interaction than is currently thought to be the case.

The third part of the book 'Second language effects on gesture' is much shorter 
than the first two parts of the books, comprising of only two chapters. Chapter 
Sixteen follows on nicely from the last section, looking at Japanese, French and 
bilingual Japanese-French students. Meghan Zvaigzne, Yuriko Oshima-Takane, 
Fred Genesee, and Makiko Hirakawa found that Japanese speaking children, and 
bilinguals speaking Japanese produced more gestures in concurrence with 
memetics, while French children and bilinguals speaking French - which doesn't 
have memetics - gesture less. The other paper in this section, 'Gesture and 
language shift on the Uruguayan-Brazilian border' (Chapter Seventeen), by 
Kendra Newbury, is an exploration into gestural shift occurring in Uruguay as 
speakers move from the local variety of Portuguese to the more prestigious 
Spanish. She found that culturally specific emblematic gestures is a parallel 

In Part Four the focus is on 'Gesture in the classroom and in problem-solving.' In 
Chapter Eighteen, 'Seeing the graph vs. being the graph: Gesture, engagement 
and awareness in school mathematics,' Susan Gerofsky investigates the gestures 
made by high-school students studying mathematics and finds that gestural 
evidence gives a good indicator of whether the student has understood the 
concepts being addressed. In Chapter 19, Mitchell J. Nathan and Martha W. Alibali 
investigate 'How gesture use enables intersubjectivity in the classroom.' They find 
that gestures can help teachers establish intersubjectivity by creating a shared 
referent. In Chapter Twenty, 'Microgenesis of gestures during mental rotation tasks 
recapitulates ontogenesis,' Mingyuan Chu and Sotaro Kita look at how adults 
solved spatial rotation problems and the gestures they used in that process. They 
report that gestures show that adults and children use similar strategies, including 
symbolic distancing and internalisation, but the process is much quicker for adults. 

Part Five, 'Gesture aspects of discourse and interaction,' is a collection of four 
papers focusing on the role of gesture in natural discourse. In the first chapter in 
this section (Chapter Twenty-One) Stephani Foraker looks at 'Gesture and 
discourse: How we use our hands to introduce versus refer back.' Foraker finds 
that for English-speaking story tellers, the types of gestures produced didn't 
change between references to new and established subjects, but they also find 
that gestures for new referents are more likely to be redundant than those for 
established referents. Chapter Twenty-Two, 'Speakers' use of 'action' and 'entity' 
gestures with definite and indefinite references,' focuses exclusively on 
established referents. Katie Wilkin and Judith Holler look at how established 
referents' accompanying gestures vary depending on the definiteness of the 
referent. They find that both definite and indefinite referents are accompanied by 
gestures, but definite gestures are more likely to be accompanied by action-
focused gesture, and indirect referents with entity-focused gestures. In Chapter 
Twenty-Three, '''Voices'' and bodies: Investigating nonverbal parameters of the 
participation framework,' Claire Maury-Rouan illustrates that in a collection of 
French narratives reported speech is generally accompanied by changes in gaze. 
Chapter Twenty-Four concludes this part of the book, with Lorenza Mondada and 
Florence Oloff utilising Conversation Analysis in 'Gestures in overlap: The situated 
establishment of speakership.' They find that by analysing gesture as well as 
speech we can observe when conversation participants are maintaining or 
withdrawing their turn.

The concluding section of this book is another short one; in Part Six, 'Gestural 
analysis of music and dance' there are two papers, one looking at a gestures of a 
choir conductor and the other at an interactive art installation. In Chapter Twenty-
Five, 'Music and leadership: The choir conductor's multimodal communication,' 
Isabella Poggi focuses on a choir conductor as the leader of a cooperative group. 
She argues that a conductor's movements are a manifestation of their leadership 
and proposes an annotation scheme for analyzing conductor movements to allow 
for comparison of different conductors. The final chapter of the book (Chapter 
Twenty-Six) is 'Handjabber: Exploring metaphoric gesture and non-verbal 
communication via an interactive art installation' by Ellen Campana, Jessica 
Mumford, Cristóbal Martínez, Stjepan Rajko, Todd Ingalls, Lisa Tolentino, and 
Harvey Thornburg. 'Handjabber' is a collaborative interactive art installation that 
takes the gestures and physical orientation of two participants. Using movement 
tracking technology, data from their interaction are fed back to the participants in 
real time, as both music and manipulation of the audio recordings of the 


This collection of papers is a wonderful celebration of the heterogeneous nature of 
research currently being undertaken on gesture. As the subtitle suggests, Stam 
and Ishino wanted to showcase the interdisciplinary contribution that the study of 
gesture has made and is currently making. Not only does the volume address the 
areas discussed in each part of the book, but it touches on other areas where the 
study of gesture has offered an important theoretical perspective, including non-
human primate research (Chapter Two) and the study of gesture in non-typical 
populations, such as persons with autism spectrum disorders (Chapter Fifteen). Of 
course, with such a range of theoretical perspectives and methodological 
practices, it would be surprising if this book had a coherent feel; if anything, the 
underlying common message of the book is that there are so many ways the study 
of gesture can be employed to help answer questions in so many fields,  such as 
providing a more complete understanding of how conversational interactions occur 
or uncovering a greater extent of a child's linguistic competency. 

The variety of work in this volume is evident just from the different methodologies 
and gesture categorisation schemas employed. While the framework of analysing 
co-speech gesture refined by McNeill (1992, 2005) has been a commonly used 
methodology, and is used in at least nine of the papers here (for example Chapters 
Three, Four, Eleven, Twenty-One and Twenty-Two), there is a whole range of other 
frameworks employed in this book. Some are drawn from Sign Language studies, 
including the Hamburg Notational System (Chapter Six), Infant Sign (Chapter Nine) 
and more general Sign Language categorisation (Chapter Fourteen). Others utilise 
Kendon's (2004) way of representing co-speech gesture (Chapter Seven), and even 
qualitative discussion of individual gestures (Chapter Fifteen). Interestingly, 
Chapters Three and Six both look at the use of gestures in narratives without 
speech, but they use different methodologies to explore similar questions: McNeill 
and Sowa (Chapter Three) use McNeill's schema to analyse how pantomime 
narrative gestures differ from their co-speech counterparts, while Hogrefe, Ziegler, 
and Goldenberg use the Hamburg Notation System to also explore how these 
gestures differ from co-speech gestures.

For people with different research interests there will obviously be different papers 
that draw them to this volume, but hopefully they can take the opportunity to read 
outside of their usual methodology and research area, because, as this book 
shows, there is great potential for cross-pollination, including the study of Sign 
Language, Conversation Analysis, child language acquisition, and cognitive 
linguistics. The volume is a great introduction for people with a small working 
knowledge of linguistic studies of gesture who want an idea of the current state of 
the art. I read this volume after a couple of years absence from the field of gesture 
research and I found it a useful, refreshing, and inspiring reintroduction to the field. 
It's also great to see a mix of established names and newer researchers, often 
working together.

Some minor problems: The first part of the book 'Nature and function of gestures,' 
felt the least convincing as a category of work. Obviously, trying to understand the 
nature of gestures and how they are used is a vital and central topic in gesture 
studies, but there is no reason why some of these papers could not have been 
placed in other sections, especially Chapter Seven (Grasiano, Kendon and 
Cristilli), which looks at parallels between children's and adults' gestures. While it 
made for a nice segue into Part Two of the book, it could have just as easily been 
included in that part, which is entirely focused on child gesture. Some articles in 
the volume also appeared to lack sufficient discussion, for example, in Chapter 
Two, looking at meaning in orangutang gestures, Cartmill and Bryne assign 
meanings to the twenty-nine consistent gestures they observed, but don't show us 
what these gestures look like. There also appears to be a small font issue with a 
phonetic rendering of a word in Chapter Seventeen on page 234. Another issue is 
the lack of accompanying visual media. While diagrams, drawings and still 
captures from videos work well enough to convey general ideas, there is no 
technological impediment to integrating video examples of the phenomena under 
consideration. Although many researchers are still navigating the complexities of 
ethics surrounding video data the inclusion of a DVD or website would allow for a 
more interesting presentation of some of the data under consideration.

Aside from these minor concerns, this book is a great compilation that will likely 
raise as many questions as it answers. For experienced scholars, it is a great 
opportunity to broaden one's horizon, and for newcomers it is a great starting place 
to sample a range of outstanding work. 


Kendon, A. (2004). Gesture: Visible action as utterance. Cambridge, Cambridge 
University Press.

McNeill, D. (1992). Hand and mind: What gestures reveal about thought. Chicago, 
The University of Chicago Press.

McNeill, D. (2005). Gesture and thought. Chicago, University of Chicago Press. 


Lauren Gawne is a PhD candidate in The School of Languages and 
Linguistics at The University of Melbourne. Her current PhD research 
focuses on language documentation, Tibeto-Burman languages and 
social cognition. Other research interests include the study of gesture, 
computer-mediated communication and Internet Englishes such as 

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