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Linguistics Vanguard

A Multimodal Journal for the Language Sciences

Editor-in-Chief: Bergs, Alexander / Cohn, Abigail C. / Good, Jeff

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The shrug as marker of obviousness

Corpus evidence from Dutch face-to-face conversations

Annelies Jehoul / Geert Brône / Kurt Feyaerts
Published Online: 2017-06-29 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/lingvan-2016-0082


This contribution focuses on the shrug as it is used in stance taking contexts in face-to-face conversations. The shrug qualifies as a ‘compound enactment’, in which prototypically different gestures are combined: “the eye-brows (which are being raised), the hands (which are turned so that the palms face up), the forearms (which may be lifted), and the shoulders (which are also raised). In addition, the head may be tilted” (Streeck 2009: 189. Gesturecraft. The manu-facture of meaning. Amsterdam: Benjamins). More recent studies show that instead of a head tilt, a headshake can also be a part of the shrug (Schoonjans 2014. Modalpartikeln als multimodale Konstruktionen: Eine korpusbasierte Kookkurrenzanalyse von Modalpartikeln und Gestik im Deutschen. Leuven: KU Leuven dissertation). We report on an empirical study, in which the shrug or some of its gestural components are used to express obviousness on the part of the speaker. Although our data reveal multimodal patterns in the expression of obviousness, this study singles out the gestural dimension. The paper is structured as follows. Section 2 explains the methodological aspects of our study, after which Section 3 presents the formal and quantitative results, illustrated with four examples. The paper ends in Section 4 with a brief discussion of our major findings.

Keywords: shrug; obviousness; stance taking


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About the article

Received: 2016-09-26

Accepted: 2016-11-07

Published Online: 2017-06-29

Citation Information: Linguistics Vanguard, Volume 3, Issue s1, 20160082, ISSN (Online) 2199-174X, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/lingvan-2016-0082.

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