Pragmatic functions of gestures
Some observations on the history of their study and their nature
In the eighteenth century and before, gesture was considered from the point of view of how it should be used in oratory, as a part of the art of engaging in persuasive discourse. This contrasts with the interest pursued in modern gesture studies where, for the most part, the hand movements that people make when they speak have been studied as representations of the substantive or propositional content of the utterance, seen as providing clues about the mental or cognitive processes governing speaking. Speaking is also a form of social action, however, and gestures play an important role in this. An historical perspective on the study of gesture from a pragmatic point of view is provided, followed by a summary of the main features of the pragmatic functioning of gesture.
Keywords: rhetoric, oratory, pragmatics, gesture, communication, discourse
Published online: 12 January 2018
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