Some pragmatic functions of conversational facial gestures
Conversational facial gestures are not emotional expressions (Ekman, 1997). Facial gestures are co-speech gestures – configurations of the face, eyes, and/or head that are synchronized with words and other co-speech gestures. Facial gestures are the most frequent facial actions in dialogue, and the majority serve pragmatic (meta-communicative) rather than referential functions. A qualitative microanalysis of a close-call story illustrates three pragmatic facial gestures in their macro- and micro-context: (a) The narrator’s thinking faces (Goodwin & Goodwin, 1986) occurred as the narrator was getting started, and they accompanied verbal collateral signals of delay, such as “uh” or “um”. (b) The narrator pointed at his hand gestures with his head and eyes (Streeck, 1993), drawing the addressee’s attention to depictions that would later be crucial to the close call. (c) The meta-communicative functions of smiles included marking the narrator’s description of danger as ironic or humorous, hinting at key elements, and acknowledging errors.
Keywords: conversational facial gestures, pragmatics of gestures, face-to-face dialogue, smiles, thinking faces, gaze, emotional expressions, collateral signals
Published online: 19 October 2018
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