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

Editor-in-Chief: Danesi, Marcel

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Volume 2011, Issue 185 (Jan 2011)


Tracking the distribution of individual semantic features in gesture across spoken discourse: New perspectives in multi-modal interaction

Doron Cohen
  • Email:
/ Geoffrey Beattie
  • Head of school of psychological sciences at the University of Manchester
  • Email:
/ Heather Shovelton
  • Lecturer at the University of Manchester
  • Email:
Published Online: 2011-05-27 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/semi.2011.037


Speakers frequently produce elaborate hand movements during talk that have been shown to serve a communicative function. Nevertheless, two-thirds of the semantic content of these hand movements is encoded linguistically elsewhere in the discourse (Beattie and Shovelton, Semiotica 184: 33–52, 2011). The present experiment demonstrated that while 62.9% of semantic information in gesture was elsewhere, most gestures (81.8%) retained at least one semantic feature that was never represented linguistically. Semantic features were more explicit when they occurred in gesture than when represented linguistically. Even in cases where the imagistic gesture appeared somewhat redundant, gesture at the narrative level preserves a discernable communicative function.

Keywords:: imagistic gestures; individual differences; semantic features; discourse; multi-modal communication; gesture-speech semiosis

About the article

Published Online: 2011-05-27

Published in Print: 2011-06-01

Citation Information: Semiotica, ISSN (Online) 1613-3692, ISSN (Print) 0037-1998, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/semi.2011.037. Export Citation

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