We are happy to announce a talk by Sebastian Walter (GU Frankfurt) in the Semantics Colloquium.

The talk will take place on campus in IG 4.301.

Title: The at-issue status of character viewpoint gestures: An experimental investigation

Date: May 12

Time: 4 pm – 6 pm ct


Gestures can encode perspective, meaning that they can depict an event from different viewpoints (McNeill, 1992). More specifically, researchers have distinguished between character and observer viewpoint gestures (CVGs and OVGs, respectively). While CVGs depict events from a selected person’s point of view that participated in the event, OVGs depict events as if observed from a distance. Moreover, CVGs usually involve the whole body. OVGs, by contrast, are normally only produced with the hands.
In most formal semantic frameworks that model the semantic contribution of speech-accompanying gestures, it is claimed that they contribute not-at-issue meaning by default, i.e., they project and cannot be denied directly in discourse (Ebert & Ebert, 2014; Schlenker, 2018). This claim has been verified in an experimental study reported in Ebert et al. (2020). However, their study, as well as formal semantic research dealing with gestures in general, has to a large extent only investigated OVGs. It is thus unclear whether their findings also hold for CVGs since they are more informative and, due to the whole body being involved when producing them, possibly also more salient than OVGs (Parrill, 2010). 
In this talk, I will present the findings of an experimental judgment study that aims at investigating the at-issue status of CVGs. Although the results show that CVGs and OVGs both contribute not-at-issue meaning, there is a significant rating difference between them. I will discuss possible explanations for this rating difference and will tentatively argue that CVGs are in fact more at-issue than OVGs. This is in line with recent findings by Barnes et al. (to appear), who propose that the at-issue status of iconic enrichments is better captured as a scale than as a binary category.