Lecturer: Cornelia Ebert, Goethe University Frankfurt
Room: 1.403

People gesture while they speak. They move their hands and arms in certain ways to accompany their speech. For example, in a route description as in (1)

  1. Then you will come by a church

the speaker can indicate the shape of the steeples with her hands. To do that, the stroke of the gesture will most naturally synchronize with speech in that it will align with the word that it modifies and the syllable that is stressed most (i.e. “CHURCH”). In this example, the co-speech gesture would be an iconic one, one that indicates the shape of the steeples. Interestingly, the speaker can convey information by means of this gesture that is not included in the speech signal, for example the fact that the church has two steeples, e.g. by indicating the two steeples with her two hands. After having heard (1) and having observed the co-speech gesture, the listener will know that she will pass a church and that this church has two steeples.

Next to iconic gestures, there are other kinds of gestures that we will take a closer look at in the course, e.g. pointing gestures or emblematic ones, i.e. conventionalized gestures like the victory sign. There are different modes of performing a gesture (e.g. static vs. dynamic modes) and there are different alignment strategies of gesture and speech. We will discuss the semantic contributions and effects of all these different gesture types, modes, and strategies and closely look at current formal semantic theories that aim at capturing them.
In addition, gestures in sign languages will be investigated and we will try to approach the question how to define gesture in sign languages and how to draw the line between gesture and sign. Also, we will discuss how gesture initiates and guides language acquisition and how gestures can be used to help learning second languages.
Course material

Mon Aug 5th

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    Types of gestures, modes of gesturing

Tue Aug 6th

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    Semantic approaches of handling gestures I: gesture and speech linked by rhetorical relations

Wed Aug 7th

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    Semantic approaches of handling gestures II: gestures as cosuppositions

Thu Aug 8th

Fri Aug 9th

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    Semantic approaches of handling gestures III: gestures as conventional implicatures

Mon Aug 12th

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    Alignment of gesture and speech

Tue Aug 13th

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    Gesture and sign

Wed Aug 14th

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    Gesture and language acquisition

Thu Aug 15th

Fri Aug 16th

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    Gesture, cognitive development, and learning