The emancipation of gestures
Interactional linguists are interested in ways in which communicative resources emerge from interactional practice. This paper defines a place for the study of gesture within interactional linguistics, conceived as ‘linguistics of time’ (Hopper, 2015). It shows how hand gestures of a certain kind – conceptual gestures – emerge from ‘hands-on’ instrumental actions, are repeated and habitualized, and are taken to other communicative contexts where they enable displaced reference and conceptual representation of experiences.The data for this study is a video-recording of one work-day of an auto-shop owner (Streeck, 2017). The corpus includes auto-repair sequences in which he spontaneously improvises new gestures in response to situated communication needs, and subsequent narrative sequences during which he re-enacts them as he explains his prior actions. He also makes numerous ‘pre-fabricated’ gestures, gestures that circulate in the society at large and that are acquired by copying other conversationalists. They are ready-made manual concepts. The paper explains the life-cycle of conceptual gestures from spontaneous invention to social sedimentation and thereby sheds light on the ongoing emergence of symbolic forms in corporeal practice and intercorporeal communication.
- 2.Conceptual gestures
- 3.The emancipation of conceptual gestures in an auto-shop
- 3.1First abstraction: From action to gesture
- 3.2Second abstraction: Iconicity and displacement
- 3.3Third abstraction: Generalization across contexts
- 4.Parallels between grammaticalization and the emancipation of gestures
- 4.1Repetition and habitualization
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Published online: 06 May 2021
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