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Separating viewpoint from mode of representation in iconic co-speech gestures: insights from Danish narratives*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 January 2017

UCSD Linguistics Department


During narrative retelling, speakers shift between different viewpoints to reflect how they conceptualize the events that unfolded. These viewpoints can be indicated through gestural means as well as through verbal ones. Studies of co-speech gestures have inferred viewpoint from gesture form, i.e., how entities are mapped onto the (primarily manual) articulators, but the merits of this approach have not been discussed. The present study argues that viewpoint is more than gestural form. Despite connections between the two, many other factors may influence a gesture’s form. Assessing viewpoint from gesture form alone limits the applicability of gestural viewpoint as a window onto speakers’ event conceptualization and introduces unnecessary differences in the categorization of viewpoint across gestures types. The present study examines iconic co-speech gestures in Danish narratives, and makes explicit the means used to infer gestural viewpoint. The approach advocated here ensures that the notion of viewpoint can be applied in a principled way to all or most iconic gestures.

Research Article
Copyright © UK Cognitive Linguistics Association 2017 

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I am grateful to the participants who contributed their narratives to the dataset examined in this study. I would also like to thank everyone who helped develop my thinking on the subject of viewpoint with discussions or comments on previous versions of the manuscript, especially Fey Parrill, Kensy Cooperrider, and Elisabeth Engberg-Pedersen. All remaining mistakes are my own.



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