LINGUIST List 23.390

Tue Jan 24 2012

Review: Anthropological Linguistics, Cognitive Science, Disc. Analysis

Editor for this issue: Anja Wanner <>

Date: 12-Jan-2012
From: Lauren Gawne <>
Subject: Integrating Gesture: The Interdisciplinary Nature of Gesture
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EDITORS: Gale Stam, Mika IshinoTITLE: Integrating GestureSUBTITLE: The Interdisciplinary Nature of GestureSERIES TITLE: Gesture Studies 4PUBLISHER: John BenjaminsYEAR: 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 hascome a long way in the last couple of decades - but this volume shows just howfar the field has come. The study of gesture as a phenomenon has been the focusof much work, but as ''Integrating Gestures'' shows so well, the study of gesturehas implications for a wider range of fields, including conversation analysis, childlanguage acquisition, cognitive linguistics and semantics, than just the study ofgesture in and of itself. The volume contains wide ranging work from scholarsacross a range of gesture-studies methodologies and this is one of its majorstrengths. 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 (PartThree), classroom interaction (Part Four), discourse and interaction (Part Five) andmusic and dance (Part Six). In this volume the observations of gestural action hashelped further our understanding, not only of the nature of human gesture but alsoof its relationship with the wider linguistic system.

Part One, 'Nature and functions of gestures,' is comprised of seven papers. Itstarts with an introduction by Mika Ishino and Gale Stam, the two co-editors, whogive a brief overview of the academic study of gesture and their definition ofgesture, as well asa typology of gesture and a summary of the papers in thisvolume. In Chapter Two, 'Addressing the problems of intentionality and granularityin non-human primate gesture,' Erica A. Cartmil  and Richard W. Byrn use anintentionality-focused model to assess the communicative use of gesture bycaptive orangutans, identifying 64 distinct gestures with 29 of those havingspecific predictable meanings. In the third chapter, 'Birth of a Morph,' DavidMcNeill and Claudia Sowa examine narratives where the verbal channel issuppressed 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, withstandards of good form and syntagmatic values, while co-speech gestures do not.In Chapter 4, 'Dyadic evidence for grounding with abstract deictic gestures,' JanetBavelas, Jennifer Gerwing, Meredith Allison, and Chantelle Sutton focus on theimportance of the dyad and show that speakers are able to co-constructunderstanding with the use of abstract deictic gestures to represent the topic ofconversation. The fifth chapter, 'If you don't already know, I'm certainly not goingto show you!: Motivation to communicate affects gesture production,' by AutumnB. Hostetter, Martha W. Alibali, and Sheree M. Schrager shows that the gesturesproduced by speakers can be influenced by the motivation they have tocommunicate information; in their study, people who thought they werecommunicating rules to a competitor in a game would give less gesturalinformation than those who thought they were communicating rules to a teammember. In Chapter Six, 'Measuring the formal diversity of hand gestures by theirhamming distance,' Katharina Hogrefe, Wolfram Ziegler, and Georg Goldenberglook at the formal diversity of gestures without speech in non-Sign Languagespeakers. Using the Hamburg Notation System for Sign Languages, they find thatgestures in the absence of speech exhibit greater formal diversity than co-speechgestures. In the final chapter of this section, '''Parallel gesturing'' in adult-childconversations,' Maria Graziano, Adam Kendon, and Carla Cristilli look at adult-child dyads and find that children can, like adult, pay attention to gestures as wellas words, but like any other component of language acquisition, the paralleling ofgestures by children matures over time. The focus on interaction with children inthis final chapter provides a nice bridge to the second part of the book.

Part Two, 'First language development and gesture,' is a collection of studiesexploring what we can learn about language acquisition from looking at children'sgestural mode. In Chapter Eight, Claire D. Vallotton's analysis of preverbal infantsshows that even without speech children can engage in conceptually focusedcommunication consisting of multiple turns. Chapter Nine, 'Giving a nod to socialcognition: Developmental constraints on the emergence of conventional gesturesand infant signs,' uses the same data as Chapter Eight but moves from looking atthe communicative function of gestures to focusing on the emergence of thesegestures and signs in infants. Maria Fusaro and Claire D. Vallotton find thatcaregiver frequency of use and motoric complexity play a role, but not all gestureemergence can be explained by these two factors alone, such as the lateemergence of head nodding and shaking. They argue that gestures have highsocial-cognitive complexity. The tenth chapter, 'Sensitivity of maternal gesture tointerlocutor and context,' by Maria Zammit and Graham Schafer, looks at the useof gesture by mothers while communicating with their infants and with adults andthen compares these uses. The authors find that mothers modify their gestures fortheir infants by using fewer gestures, most of them deictic rather than emphatic,which appears to scaffold word learning. In Chapter Eleven, 'The organization ofchildren's pointing stroke endpoints,' Mats Andrén looks at the timing of children'suse of co-speech deictic gestures. Andrén finds that while around two thirds ofinfant deictics show the same timing with speech as adult gestures, the other thirdis sustained for longer than the speech to which adults give more sustainedresponses. In Chapter Twelve, Şeyda Özçalışkan and Susan Goldin-Meadow askthe question 'Is there an iconic gesture spurt at 26 months?' They found a sharpincrease in the number of spontaneous iconic gestures in children at this age, andlike Zammit and Schafer in Chapter Ten, they found an increase in the number ofchild-directed gestures over time. Kazuki Sekine in Chapter Thirteen 'Thedevelopment of spatial perspective in the description of large-scale environments'looks at the gestural information produced by young Japanese school childrendescribing their route home and on how this can give us insight into their cognitivemodel of the environment. Chapter Fourteen, 'Learning to use gesture in narratives:Developmental trends in formal and semantic gesture competence,' byOlga Capirci, Carla Cristilli, V. De Angelis, and Maria Graziano looks at thedevelopment of gestures in narratives of Italian children, both in terms of thesemantic and formal development of the gestures. The final chapter in thissection, Chapter 15, 'The changing role of gesture form and function in a picturebook interaction between a child with autism and his support teacher' is aqualitative study by Hannah Sowden, Mick Perkins, and Judy Clegg, in which theylook in depth at a single interaction between an autistic boy and a care-giver. Theyargue that autistic children may have more complicated understanding of gesturalinteraction than is currently thought to be the case.

The third part of the book 'Second language effects on gesture' is much shorterthan the first two parts of the books, comprising of only two chapters. ChapterSixteen follows on nicely from the last section, looking at Japanese, French andbilingual Japanese-French students. Meghan Zvaigzne, Yuriko Oshima-Takane,Fred Genesee, and Makiko Hirakawa found that Japanese speaking children, andbilinguals speaking Japanese produced more gestures in concurrence withmemetics, while French children and bilinguals speaking French - which doesn'thave memetics - gesture less. The other paper in this section, 'Gesture andlanguage shift on the Uruguayan-Brazilian border' (Chapter Seventeen), byKendra Newbury, is an exploration into gestural shift occurring in Uruguay asspeakers move from the local variety of Portuguese to the more prestigiousSpanish. She found that culturally specific emblematic gestures is a parallelphenomenon.

In Part Four the focus is on 'Gesture in the classroom and in problem-solving.' InChapter Eighteen, 'Seeing the graph vs. being the graph: Gesture, engagementand awareness in school mathematics,' Susan Gerofsky investigates the gesturesmade by high-school students studying mathematics and finds that gesturalevidence gives a good indicator of whether the student has understood theconcepts being addressed. In Chapter 19, Mitchell J. Nathan and Martha W. Alibaliinvestigate 'How gesture use enables intersubjectivity in the classroom.' They findthat gestures can help teachers establish intersubjectivity by creating a sharedreferent. In Chapter Twenty, 'Microgenesis of gestures during mental rotation tasksrecapitulates ontogenesis,' Mingyuan Chu and Sotaro Kita look at how adultssolved spatial rotation problems and the gestures they used in that process. Theyreport that gestures show that adults and children use similar strategies, includingsymbolic distancing and internalisation, but the process is much quicker for adults.

Part Five, 'Gesture aspects of discourse and interaction,' is a collection of fourpapers focusing on the role of gesture in natural discourse. In the first chapter inthis section (Chapter Twenty-One) Stephani Foraker looks at 'Gesture anddiscourse: How we use our hands to introduce versus refer back.' Foraker findsthat for English-speaking story tellers, the types of gestures produced didn'tchange between references to new and established subjects, but they also findthat gestures for new referents are more likely to be redundant than those forestablished referents. Chapter Twenty-Two, 'Speakers' use of 'action' and 'entity'gestures with definite and indefinite references,' focuses exclusively onestablished referents. Katie Wilkin and Judith Holler look at how establishedreferents' accompanying gestures vary depending on the definiteness of thereferent. They find that both definite and indefinite referents are accompanied bygestures, but definite gestures are more likely to be accompanied by action-focused gesture, and indirect referents with entity-focused gestures. In ChapterTwenty-Three, '''Voices'' and bodies: Investigating nonverbal parameters of theparticipation framework,' Claire Maury-Rouan illustrates that in a collection ofFrench narratives reported speech is generally accompanied by changes in gaze.Chapter Twenty-Four concludes this part of the book, with Lorenza Mondada andFlorence Oloff utilising Conversation Analysis in 'Gestures in overlap: The situatedestablishment of speakership.' They find that by analysing gesture as well asspeech we can observe when conversation participants are maintaining orwithdrawing their turn.

The concluding section of this book is another short one; in Part Six, 'Gesturalanalysis of music and dance' there are two papers, one looking at a gestures of achoir 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 leadershipand proposes an annotation scheme for analyzing conductor movements to allowfor comparison of different conductors. The final chapter of the book (ChapterTwenty-Six) is 'Handjabber: Exploring metaphoric gesture and non-verbalcommunication via an interactive art installation' by Ellen Campana, JessicaMumford, Cristóbal Martínez, Stjepan Rajko, Todd Ingalls, Lisa Tolentino, andHarvey Thornburg. 'Handjabber' is a collaborative interactive art installation thattakes the gestures and physical orientation of two participants. Using movementtracking technology, data from their interaction are fed back to the participants inreal time, as both music and manipulation of the audio recordings of theconversation.


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

The variety of work in this volume is evident just from the different methodologiesand gesture categorisation schemas employed. While the framework of analysingco-speech gesture refined by McNeill (1992, 2005) has been a commonly usedmethodology, and is used in at least nine of the papers here (for example ChaptersThree, Four, Eleven, Twenty-One and Twenty-Two), there is a whole range of otherframeworks 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 utiliseKendon's (2004) way of representing co-speech gesture (Chapter Seven), and evenqualitative discussion of individual gestures (Chapter Fifteen). Interestingly,Chapters Three and Six both look at the use of gestures in narratives withoutspeech, but they use different methodologies to explore similar questions: McNeilland Sowa (Chapter Three) use McNeill's schema to analyse how pantomimenarrative gestures differ from their co-speech counterparts, while Hogrefe, Ziegler,and Goldenberg use the Hamburg Notation System to also explore how thesegestures differ from co-speech gestures.

For people with different research interests there will obviously be different papersthat draw them to this volume, but hopefully they can take the opportunity to readoutside of their usual methodology and research area, because, as this bookshows, there is great potential for cross-pollination, including the study of SignLanguage, Conversation Analysis, child language acquisition, and cognitivelinguistics. The volume is a great introduction for people with a small workingknowledge of linguistic studies of gesture who want an idea of the current state ofthe art. I read this volume after a couple of years absence from the field of gestureresearch 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, oftenworking 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 thenature of gestures and how they are used is a vital and central topic in gesturestudies, but there is no reason why some of these papers could not have beenplaced in other sections, especially Chapter Seven (Grasiano, Kendon andCristilli), which looks at parallels between children's and adults' gestures. While itmade for a nice segue into Part Two of the book, it could have just as easily beenincluded in that part, which is entirely focused on child gesture. Some articles inthe volume also appeared to lack sufficient discussion, for example, in ChapterTwo, looking at meaning in orangutang gestures, Cartmill and Bryne assignmeanings to the twenty-nine consistent gestures they observed, but don't show uswhat these gestures look like. There also appears to be a small font issue with aphonetic rendering of a word in Chapter Seventeen on page 234. Another issue isthe lack of accompanying visual media. While diagrams, drawings and stillcaptures from videos work well enough to convey general ideas, there is notechnological impediment to integrating video examples of the phenomena underconsideration. Although many researchers are still navigating the complexities ofethics surrounding video data the inclusion of a DVD or website would allow for amore interesting presentation of some of the data under consideration.

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


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

ABOUT THE REVIEWER 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 LOLspeak.

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