Mapping out the multifunctionality of speakers’ gestures
Although it is widely acknowledged that gestures are complex functional elements of human communication, many current functional classification systems are rather rigid, implicitly assuming gestures to perform only one function at any given time. In this paper, we present a theoretical view on the inherent multifunctionality of speakers’ gestures, inspired by frameworks in structural-functional linguistics (Halliday’s Systemic Functional Grammar and Hengeveld & Mackenzie’s Functional Discourse Grammar). Building upon this view, we report on a large-scale internet-based gesture perception study, designed in a way open to the potential for complex multifunctionality of gestural expression. The results provide quantitative support for the view that speakers’ gestures typically contribute to multiple semantic and meta-communicative functions of the ongoing discourse simultaneously. Furthermore, we identify clusters of functions that tend to be combined, as well as correlations between pairs of them. As a whole, this paper achieves some degree of convergence between ecological and experimental views on gesture functionality.
Keywords: communication, gestures, discourse, multifunctionality
Published online: 19 May 2016
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