Gesture and Pragmatics

From paralinguistic to variably linguistic

Authored by: Alan Cienki

The Routledge Handbook of Pragmatics

Print publication date:  January  2017
Online publication date:  January  2017

Print ISBN: 9780415531412
eBook ISBN: 9781315668925
Adobe ISBN:


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From the point of view of mainstream Western linguistic theory in the second half of the twentieth century, gesture was primarily seen as a matter of pragmatics in the sense that it was not considered to relate to the ‘core’ fields in linguistics of phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics. However, in the past few decades, several changes have occurred, placing gesture in a different position in the scientific landscape. Gesture studies has grown as an interdisciplinary field of inquiry, and further developments in approaches focusing on language use – including ones as diverse as cognitive linguistics and conversation/interaction analysis – are giving rise to a variably multimodal approach to language (as audiovisual in nature). The first part of this chapter concerns the earlier view of gesture within pragmatics, then we will turn to more recent ways of thinking, whereby gesture use is not viewed in terms of the pragmatic versus the semantic, but as located on a continuum of the semantic to the pragmatic.

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