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Review of  Integrating Gestures

Reviewer: Lauren Gawne
Book Title: Integrating Gestures
Book Author: Gale Stam Mika Ishino
Publisher: John Benjamins
Linguistic Field(s): Discourse Analysis
Cognitive Science
Anthropological Linguistics
Language Acquisition
Issue Number: 23.390

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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.
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.