togog: Subproject P5

Simultaneous structures of gestures in human and non-human primates

Overall aims:
1. To investigate the forms and meanings of recurrent gestures in humans;
2. To investigate recurrent forms of gestures in non-human primates;
3. To compare structural properties of gestures in nonhuman and human primates.


togog: Subproject P5a

Simultaneous structures of gestures in humans

Researchers: Cornelia Müller, Ellen Fricke, Jana Bressem, and Benjamin Marienfeld


Specific aims:
1. To document a repertoire of German recurrent gestures: their forms and meanings, and the linkages between them;
2. To identify German gesture families;
3. To identify proto-forms of linguistic structure in gestures.

In a German data corpus, we have documented a repertoire of 17 common recurrent gestural forms with a stable core meaning. We have already researched and coded a broad range of different discourse types. This research process is still under way, but the list of forms identified so far clearly constitutes a significant portion of the most common forms. Note that these recurrent gestures are specific in that they are naturally integrated with speech. They differ in this respect from so-called ‘emblems’ gesture ‘words’ that are often used to replace lexical items or even entire utterances such as, for instance, those used in situational contexts of cursing, counting, or ordering drinks. We have termed them ‘recurrent’ gestures because they are “used repeatedly in different contexts and their formational and semantic core remains stable across different contexts and speakers” (cf. Ladewig, in prep.).

Out of the 17 recurrent gestures, 7 (in total 219 instances) have been analysed with regard to their formal characteristics (cf. Bressem’s form-based notation system) and their core meanings, using the Togog microanalytic method of form-meaning and context-distribution analysis. In particular, the analysis includes a detailed description of the form features (cf. Bressem’s form-based notation system), the gestural Modes of Representation (cf. Müller), a cognitive-semiotic analysis (cf. Müller & Tag in prep), a context-of use analysis (cf. Ladewig, Müller) and a sequential analysis (cf. Ladewig, Müller). We have found so far, that 7 out of 17 recurrent gestures constitute two semantic fields, which we are currently investigating in more detail.