Integrated perspectives on gesture

Integrated perspectives on gesture

Research on the different modalities of human communication is an enriching contribution to evolutionary theories on language ontogenesis. Interdisciplinary research plays a crucial role in this by promoting discussion based on research on the same object of study, but from different perspectives. This symposium, organized by the association iGesto-Investigação do Gesto (Gesture Investigations) contributes to this kind of discussion with topics focused on the relation between gesture and language, or gesture and speech. This session intends to be a meeting point for discussion around these questions in the context of the ontogenesis of language: What are gestures? Why do we gesture? Why does a gesture help? What does a gesture reveal? How are gestures related to speech? Or even, why do we speak, if we can communicate with gestures?

Meaningful movements

Alexandre Castro Caldas, Catolica Health Sciences Institute (ICS), Center of Interdisciplinary Research in Health (CIIS), Portugal

Gesture will be approached from an evolutionary perspective, considering its inexhaustible connection with brain function as well as how it reflects on pathology and phantom gesture.

Gesture acquisition at early age in spoken and in signed language

Anabela Cruz-Santos (1), Etelvina Lima (1) & Ana Mineiro (2), (1) Research Center in Education (CIEd), Institute of Education, University of Minho, Portugal; (2) Catolica Health Sciences Institute (ICS), Center of Interdisciplinary Research in Health (CIIS), Portuguese Catolica University, Portugal

Gesture is considered a crucial element in the development of the communicative capacities in early childhood. This aspect will be explored in two examples: the analysis of the growth pattern of gesture in expressive communication of children throughout their early development; and the description of the processes that explain how gesture becomes a sign in a sign language system. This neurological processing of gesture grammaticalization happens in the left hemisphere, during the early phase of sign language acquisition, similar to what happens to words in vocal languages.

Gesturing without hands: Some uses of foot gestures

Isabel Galhano-Rodrigues, Linguistic Center of the University of Porto; Faculty of Arts of the University of Porto; NOVA Institute of Communication, NOVA University of Lisbon, Portugal

Careful observation with the naked eye of foot-actions performed by a speaker without upper-limbs seems to reveal that these movements are efficient alternatives to hand gestures. The speaker coordinates his foot movements with speech as if he would perform meaningful hand gestures, fulfilling a variety of specific tasks as part of the utterance. On closer observation and detailed analysis, these foot gestures have been decomposed into meaningful segments according to their semiotic properties. Some frequent movements display semiotic features and assume pragmatic functions comparable to recurrent hand gestures. The example attests the robustness of gesture and the flexibility of the brain.

Gesture in simultaneous interpreting (SI)

Elena Zagar Galvão, Linguistic Center of the University of Porto, Faculty of Arts of the University of Porto, Portugal

Why do conference interpreters gesticulate? Professional conference interpreters often use a richly textured range of gestural action while at work in the booth. Quantitative and qualitative analyses of data indicate that interpreters’ gestures may lighten the cognitive load involved in the complex task of simultaneous interpreting, as well as improve memory. Gesturing reduces demands on a speaker’s cognitive resources and frees cognitive capacity to perform other tasks. Furthermore, the semiotic properties of interpreters’ gestures reflect different motivational basis: they may depict interpreter’s conceptualizations of different dimensions or ideas, or mimic speaker’s gestures. This object of study seems to offer interesting issues for a neurological approach to detect the different mechanisms involved during gesture and speech production.

Things that the performative body can do better than words

Carla Fernandes, NOVA Institute of Communication, Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, New University of Lisbon, Portugal

A human body is a site of knowledge that reproduces thoughts and feelings through a schema of systematically codified techniques of corporeal practice. Professional dancers use their bodies not only for artistic purposes, but also to take non-verbalized decisions during the process of learning, to improvise, to compose or to perform a choreographed piece under specific time constraints. From within the BlackBox ERC-funded project, two case studies will be presented: the first, on how dancers use their bodies as distributed cognition to memorize and rehearse a choreography; and the second, on the role of dancers’ bodies in social cognition for the coordinated collaboration of a group improvisation performance. Bodily understanding of movements belongs to the bases of the embodied cognition happening in dance.

Isabel Galhano-Rodrigues is Professor at the Faculty of Letters and researcher at the Linguistic Centre of the University of Porto, as well as collaborator at the NOVA Institute of Communication at the New University of Lisbon, Portugal. She began her academic career by studying conversation/discourse analysis. In her PhD project, she pursued research on multimodality in face-to-face interaction, including coverbal kinesic units and prosody in the analysis of communicative events in European Portuguese. Her dissertation, O corpo e a fala (2007), documents the reception of Gesture Studies in Portugal. Following ethnographic and cognitive approaches on multimodality in interaction, she has published studies on varied topics, such as: gesture space in different linguistic communities, gestures in conference interpreting, listing gestures, multimodal deixis, home signs of deaf children with cochlear implant, and foot gestures. She is one of the founders and president of the board of the association iGesto.

Anabela Cruz-Santos is Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology of Education and Special Education of the Institute of Education of the University of Minho and integrated researcher of the Center for Research in Education. She has a PhD in Child Studies and a specialization in Special Education obtained at the University of Minho. Since 2000 she has been teaching in Special Education teacher-training courses. She has coordinated and participated in national and international projects in the area of Language Disorders. Main research interests include the acquisition and development of communication skills in children with and without Special Educational Needs, development and validation of language assessment tools, and research-based strategies for children with Communication Disorders and Hearing Impairment. She is the author of book chapters, articles, and assessment instruments in the field, and one of the founders and board members of the association iGesto.

Ana Mineiro is Associate Professor with Habilitation at the Portuguese Catholic University and invited lecturer at the Nova Medical School in Lisbon. Her main research interests include sign language, from a neurolinguistic perspective, language genesis and evolution in humans, bilingualism and language acquisition by deaf and bilingual children. As an expert in sign languages emergence, she has developed a linguistic and humanitarian project in São Tomé and Príncipe for the creation of a new sign language. She has been principal investigator (PI) in several scientific and development projects funded by competitive calls such as the Foundation for Science and Technology, the European Commission, the Gulbenkian Foundation, and the PT Foundation, among others. She has been attributed scientific awards to her FCT-funded doctoral thesis and to a paper resulting from her postdoctoral fellowship. She directs the Lab in Language and Sign Language Research at the Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Health (CIIS).

Sponsoring Institutions