Interdisziplinäres BGC-Kolloquium
Veranstaltet vom Berlin Gesture Center in Kooperation mit


Vortrag von Silva H. Ladewig, Cornelia Müller und Sedinha Teßendorf (Europa-Universität Viadrina, Frankfurt/Oder):

Gesture semantics: Forms, meanings and conceptualizations of spontaneous gestures

Freitag, 8. Januar, 19 Uhr, Projektron, Gneisenaustr. 2, 10961 Berlin-Kreuzberg (U-Bahnhof Mehringdamm)



It is widely accepted that co-speech gestures may either refer to concrete or abstract entities or events and that they may serve as evidence for cognitive processes involved at the moment of speaking and gesturing (Cienki & Müller 2008a, b; McNeill 1992, 2000, 2005; McNeill & Duncan 2000; Müller 2007, 2008). In this talk, we will be proposing, that a linguistic, form-based analysis, reveals finegrained differences in meaning and conceptualization which otherwise might remain unnoticed.

We will present results from an empirical interdisciplinary study in which we compared gestures referring to concrete versus abstracts entities or events. Initially we departed from the hypothesis that gestures of the concrete would differ from gestures referring to the abstract with regard to their form. In cooperation with the Neurology group of ToGoG a stimulus set of 40 stories each including a target item or phrase was developed: 20 words, having both a concrete and an abstract sense, e.g. "eine runde Bank" vs. "eine runde Geschichte" ("a round bench" vs. "a complete story", lit.: "a round story"). In the first condition, the subjects retold the stories in two different settings: a) they talked to a recipient, and b) they talked to the camera. In the second condition subjects were asked to listen to the stories, repeat the target sentences, and perform a gesture.

Twenty subjects were tested. In the first condition the subjects only rarely accompanied the target items with gestures. The second condition yielded however interesting results: rather than differing with regard to abstractness or concreteness, subjects appeared to differ with regard to degrees of semantic loading of body-parts involved in gesturing. I.e. we found that in both contexts (abstract and concrete) subjects either produced a close pantomimic reenactment of the scene depicted in the story or they used a hands-only depiction, a kind of prototypical more de-contextualized depiction of the target event.

We propose to interpret these findings along Fricke's (2007) Peircian distinction of object versus interpretant based gestures and we conclude that only by taking a form-based approach, i.e. by closely describing the articulatory parts involved in a gestural performance and by closely accounting for their contribution to the overall meaning of the gesture, these differences become readily visible. ToGoG's form-based approach may be used as a microscope to revealing such subtle variations in meaning and conceptualization of gestures.

The presentation will be in English.

Cienki, A. & C. Müller (eds.) (2008a). Metaphor and Gesture. Amsterdam: Benjamins.
Cienki, A & C. Müller (2008b). Metaphor, gesture and thought. In R. W. Gibbs (ed.) Cambridge Handbook of Metaphor and Thought, Cambrige: CUP, 483-501.
Fricke, E. (2007). Origo, Geste und Raum: Lokaldeixis im Deutschen. Berlin: De Gruyter.
McNeill, D. (1992). Hand and mind. What gestures reveal about thought. Chicago: UoCPress.
McNeill, D. (2005). Gesture and Thought. UoCPress.
McNeill, D. & S. Duncan (2000). Growth points in thinking-for speaking. In D. McNeill (ed.) Language and Gesture, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 141-161.
Müller, C. (1998). Redebegleitende Gesten: Kulturgeschichte, Theorie, Sprachvergleich. Berlin: Spitz.
Müller, C. (2007). A dynamic view on metaphor, gesture and thought. In S. Duncan, J. Cassell & E. Levy (eds.) Gesture and the dynamic dimension of language. Essays in honor of David McNeill. Benjamins: Amsterdam. 109-116.
Müller, C. (2008). Metaphors. Dead and alive, sleeping and waking. A dynamic view. Chicago: UoCPress.