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Movements of signification

Time: Fri 2021-05-21 15.15

Location: Zoom

Lecturer: Wim Pouw

Manual gestures are communicative bodily postures in motion which
signify in coordination with speech. Gestures have primarily gathered
attention from cognitive psychologists, linguists, and anthropologists,
who are united under the umbrella of ‘gesture studies’. Gestures studies
tend to look through gesture, inferring their significance through
meticulous interpretation, where whole worlds have been envisaged about
what significance lies behind the movements: e.g., Gestures are held to
reflect an inner world of sensorimotor simulations; Gestures are
schematizations of thought; Gestures are primordial symbols. Such views
have emancipated gestures, as unique windows into the human mind. We
are, it turns out, not merely moving about.

In this talk I will however stop for a moment to peer through gesture,
and appreciate gesture qua movement. What do we see? We see (part 1)
that there is pulse-quality of gesture producing forces through
acceleration, thereby physically and functionally perturbing speech
processes; grounding gesture’s phylogeny, ontogeny, and cognition, in
physiology. We further see (part 2) that to study gesture as linguistic
devices researchers need not reduce nor enrich continuous body movements
to discrete meanings or events – gestures can be shown to be
linguistically constrained in movement by interrelating the kinematics
and oscillatory foundations of gestures that comprise a gesture system.
I conclude therefore that we are, it turns out, just moving about, but
in more significant ways than previously thought. Potential implications
for KTH's gesture synthesis project will be discussed.

Wim Pouw is currently a Research Fellow at the Donders Center for Brain,
Cognition and Behaviour. He studies speech and manual gesture production
from an embodied cognitive science perspective.

Affiliation: Donders Center for Brain, Cognition, and Behavior, Radboud
University Nijmegen, The Netherlands