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Journal of the International Association for Semiotic Studies / Revue de l'Association Internationale de Sémiotique

Editor-in-Chief: Danesi, Marcel

5 Issues per year

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2014: 0.317
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2014: 0.738
Impact per Publication (IPP) 2014: 0.262

ERIH category 2011: INT2



An exploration of the other side of semantic communication: How the spontaneous movements of the human hand add crucial meaning to narrative

1Head of school of psychological sciences at the University of Manchester.

2Lecturer at the University of Manchester.

Citation Information: Semiotica. Volume 2011, Issue 184, Pages 33–51, ISSN (Online) 1613-3692, ISSN (Print) 0037-1998, DOI: 10.1515/semi.2011.021, March 2011

Publication History

Published Online:


Past research has suggested that those spontaneous movements of the human hand made during talk convey significant semantic information over and above the speech, at least when the unit of speech analyzed is the individual clause. However, no previous research has tested whether this information is represented linguistically elsewhere in the narrative (or is directly inferable from the rest of the narrative). The first study, reported here, uses an experimental procedure to identify which specific imagistic gestures add semantic information to the speech. The second study analyzes whether the specific gestures still do this when respondents hear the whole narrative. It was found that two thirds of the semantic information, thought to be carried by the gestures, is, in fact, represented in the linguistic discourse, or is inferable from it. However, one third of the additional semantic information contained in the gestures is not represented linguistically in the narrative nor is it inferable from it. In other words, a proportion of the imagistic gestures that accompany speech are absolutely critical to semantic communication.

Keywords:: imagistic gesture; communicative function; semantic feature

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