LaGeCon: The Language-Gesture Connection

Gesture is not an add-on to language. When people talk, their gestures are not only produced simultaneously with words and grammatical structures but also share aspects of their meaning. Gestures also combine with language to regulate interaction. This shows that language and gesture represent two parts of the same communicative process. However, mainstream linguistics does not include gestures in the analysis and theory of language. This project is the first concerted effort at a systematic and cross-linguistic description of the language-gesture connection in interaction. It focuses on hand gestures that are co-produced with speech (pointing, metaphoric, iconic and speech-linked gestures) and studies how they are synchronised with linguistic forms in it (e.g. noun and verb phrases, adverbials, arguments in intransitive or transitive clauses, complements, clauses). The analysis is based on audio-video recordings collected from face-to-face interactions in 6–8 typologically different languages. The project is

  1. a systematic analysis of the co-production of linguistic forms and gesture in speech,
  2. a description of the meaning-making potential of the language-gesture combination, and
  3. a systematic comparison of the language-gesture connection in typologically different languages.

We will make use of quantitative methods to describe the distribution and frequency of the analysed phenomena, and qualitative methods to account for the co-temporality and co-placement of linguistic form and gesture in speech. The project offers cognitive, functional and interactional explanations that motivate the connection, and it attempts at cross-linguistic generalisations. This innovative approach is in sharp contrast to traditional linguistic theories and pushes disciplinary boundaries.

Last updated: 23.2.2015