Skip to content
BY 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter Open Access August 3, 2019

Transitivity, Events, and Gesture: The Case of the Causative-inchoative Alternation

  • Suwei Wu and Alan Cienki EMAIL logo
From the journal Open Linguistics


An increasing number of studies are being devoted to the investigation of what aspects of grammar, and of events, expressed in speech are coordinated with gesture. However, previous studies have focused on gesture use in relation to either transitivity or event properties, without considering how these factors interact. In this study, we consider how gesture use relates to transitivity when the type of event in the causativeinchoative alternation is considered, and also how gesture use relates to properties of the events when the type of transitivity is considered. We found various relations both between gesture use and transitivity on the one hand, and between gesture use and certain properties of events on the other hand. Whereas some of the results contrast with the findings in previous studies about the relation between gesture and transitivity, other results obtained actually reinforce and complement some previous findings. The results concerning event properties and gesture also add to previous studies about which properties of certain motor-spatial events relate to gesture and how they do so. The study thus provides a more nuanced understanding of the relation between gesture and language.


Beattie, Geoffrey, Heather Shovelton. 2002. What properties of talk are associated with the generation of spontaneous iconic hand gestures? British Journal of Social Psychology 41. 403-417.10.1348/014466602760344287Search in Google Scholar

Benedicto, Elena, Diane Brentari. 2004. Where did all the arguments go?: Argument-changing properties of classifiers in ASL. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 22(4). 743–810.10.1007/s11049-003-4698-2Search in Google Scholar

Croft, William A. 1991. Syntactic categories and grammatical relations: The cognitive organization of information. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Search in Google Scholar

de Ruiter, Jan Peter. 2000. The production of gesture and speech. In David McNeill (ed.), Language and gesture, 248–311. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.10.1017/CBO9780511620850.018Search in Google Scholar

Delancey, Scott. 1987. Transitivity in grammar and cognition. In Russell S. Tomlin (ed.), Coherence and grounding in discourse, 53–68. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.10.1075/tsl.11.04delSearch in Google Scholar

Feyereisen, Pierre, Isabelle Havard. 1999. Mental imagery and production of hand gestures while speaking in younger and older adults. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 23(2). 153-171.Search in Google Scholar

Givón, Talmy. 1985. Ergative morphology and transitivity gradients in Newari. In Frans Plank (ed.), Relational typology, 89–107. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.10.1515/9783110848731.89Search in Google Scholar

Hale, Kenneth, Jay Keyser. 1986. Some transitivity alternations in English. Lexicon Project Working Papers, 605–638. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Search in Google Scholar

Hopper, Paul J., Sandra. A. Thompson. 1980. Transitivity in grammar and discourse. Language, 56(2). 251–299.Search in Google Scholar

Hostetter, Autumn B., Martha W. Alibali. 2008. Visible embodiment: Gestures as simulated action. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 15(3). 495–514.Search in Google Scholar

Hostetter, Autumn B., Martha W. Alibali. 2010. Language, gesture, action: A test of the Gesture as Simulated Action Framework. Journal of Memory & Language, 63(2). 245–257.Search in Google Scholar

Kita, Sotaro, Asli Özyürek, Shalley Allen, Amanda Brown, Reyhan Furman, Tomoko Ishizuka. 2007. Relations between syntactic encoding and co-speech gestures: Implications for a model of speech and gesture production. Language & Cognitive Processes, 22(8). 1212–1236.Search in Google Scholar

Krauss, Robert M. 1998. Why do we gesture when we speak?. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 7(2). 54-54.Search in Google Scholar

Krauss, Robert M., Yihsiu Chen, Purnima Chawla. 1996. Nonverbal behavior and nonverbal communication: What do conversational hand gestures tell us? In Mark P. Zanna (ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology, Vol. 28, 389–450. San Diego: Academic Press.10.1016/S0065-2601(08)60241-5Search in Google Scholar

Lakoff, George. 1977. Linguistic gestalts. Papers from the Thirteenth Regional Meeting, Chicago Linguistic Society, 236–287. Chicago: Chicago Linguistic Society.Search in Google Scholar

Langacker, Ronald. 2008. Cognitive Grammar: A basic introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195331967.001.0001Search in Google Scholar

Levin, Beth. 1993. English verb classes and alternations: A preliminary investigation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Search in Google Scholar

Levy, Elena. T., David McNeill. 1992. Speech, gesture, and discourse. Discourse Processes, 15(3). 277–301.Search in Google Scholar

Martinec, Radan. 2000. Types of process in action. Semiotica, 130(3). 243–268.Search in Google Scholar

Martinec, Radan. 2004. Gestures that co occur with speech as a systematic resource: The realization of experiential meanings in indexes. Social Semiotics, 14(2). 193–213.10.1080/1035033042000238259Search in Google Scholar

McNeill, David. 1992. Hand and mind: What gestures reveal about thought. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Search in Google Scholar

Müller, Cornelia. 1998. Iconicity and gesture. In Santi, Serge, Isabelle Guaĩtella, Christian Cavé, Gabrielle Konopczynski (eds.), Oralité et gestualité: Communication multimodale, interaction, 321–328. Paris: L’Harmattan.Search in Google Scholar

Müller, Cornelia. 2014. Gestural modes of representation as techniques of depiction. In Müller, Cornelia, Alan Cienki, Ellen Fricke, Silva Ladewig, David McNeill, Jana Bressem (eds.), Body – language – communication: An international handbook on multimodality in human interaction, Vol. 2, 1687–1702. Berlin and Boston: De Gruyter Mouton.Search in Google Scholar

Newman, John. 1996. Give: A cognitive linguistic study. Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter.10.1515/9783110823714Search in Google Scholar

Parrill, Fey. 2010. Viewpoint in speech–gesture integration: Linguistic structure, discourse structure, and event structure. Language and Cognitive Processes, 25(5). 650–668.Search in Google Scholar

Parrill, Fey, Benjamin K. Bergen, Patricia V. Lichtenstein. 2013. Grammatical aspect, gesture, and conceptualization: Using co-speech gesture to reveal event representations. Cognitive Linguistics, 24(1). 135–158.10.1515/cog-2013-0005Search in Google Scholar

Rice, Sally. 1987. Towards a cognitive model of transitivity. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of California, San Diego.Search in Google Scholar

Talmy, Leonard. 1985. Lexicalization patterns: Semantic structure in lexical forms. In Timothy Shopen (ed.), Language typology and syntactic description, Vol. 3, 36–149. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Talmy, Leonard. 2000. Towards a cognitive semantics, Vol. 2: Typology and process in concept structuring. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.10.7551/mitpress/6848.001.0001Search in Google Scholar

Received: 2018-06-01
Accepted: 2019-04-26
Published Online: 2019-08-03

© 2019 Suwei Wu et al., published by De Gruyter Open

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Public License.

Downloaded on 6.12.2023 from
Scroll to top button