Giving language a hand: gesture as a cue based communicative strategy

Gullberg, M. (1995). Giving language a hand: gesture as a cue based communicative strategy. Working Papers, Lund University, Dept. of Linguistics, 44, 41-60.
All accounts of communicative behaviour in general, and communicative strategies in particular, mention gesture1 in relation to language acquisition (cf. Faerch & Kasper 1983 for an overview). However, few attempts have been made to investigate how spoken language and spontaneous gesture combine to determine discourse referents. Referential gesture and referential discourse will be of particular interest, since communicative strategies in second language discourse often involve labelling problems.

This paper will focus on two issues:

1) Within a cognitive account of communicative strategies, gesture will be seen to be part of conceptual or analysis-based strategies, in that relational features in the referents are exploited;

2) It will be argued that communication strategies can be seen in terms of cue manipulation in the same sense as sentence processing has been analysed in terms of competing cues. Strategic behaviour, and indeed the process of referring in general, are seen in terms of cues, combining or competing to determine discourse referents. Gesture can then be regarded as being such a cue at the discourse level, and as a cue-based communicative strategy, in that gesture functions by exploiting physically based cues which can be recognised as being part of the referent. The question of iconicity and motivation vs. the arbitrary qualities of gesture as a strategic cue will be addressed in connection with this.
Publication type
Journal article
Publication date

Share this page