LSA 207: Gesture and language

Susan Duncan | session 2 | TuTh 3:30 – 5:15, 370 Dwinelle Hall

People gesticulate spontaneously and often copiously when talking with one another. This is universally so. These gestures manifest meanings that pattern in relation to multiple levels of linguistic analysis, thereby revealing ways that thinking engages linguistic structure in real-time language use. Gestures also display elements of the evolving shared content of interactive discourses and give evidence of how language use fundamentally involves analog, imagistic thinking and spatial cognition. This course will be a beginning graduate-level introduction to research on, and methods for, studying coverbal gestures. The course will highlight the heterogeneity of this dimension of natural language use. In-class demonstrations of technology-enabled, close observation of speech-synchronized gesturing in discourse data from several language/cultural groups will drive discussion of how evidence from gesture adds to our understanding of language phenomena such as discourse focus, maintenance of discourse reference, grammaticization, lexical meaning, verb aspect, the psychological nature of grammatical form classes, perspective taking, and language prosody. A goal of the course is to arrive at some conclusions concerning how phenomena revealed by gesture analysis place certain constraints on linguistic theory.

Required reading: Selected materials available online.

Recommended reading: David McNeill, Gesture and Thought.

Areas of linguistics: Language and thought

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