We are happy to announce a talk by Wim Pouw (Nijmegen) in the Semantics Colloquium.

The talk will take place on campus in IG 4.301.
If you wish to participate virtually via Zoom, please contact Lennart Fritzsche <fritzsche@em.uni-frankfurt.de> for the link.

Title: Gestural Darwinism

Date: November 23, 2023

Time: 4 pm – 6 pm ct

While it is clear what constitutes a success for picking up a cup to take a sip, some if not all non-conventionalized gestures „fail“ to have (precise) conditions under which the function can be said to be realized.  If it is transparent what function is realized by the gesture, it is generally unclear why this gesture over others was used to realize the function. This issue is at the heart of gesture studies and makes it such that any gesture can be debated concerning its determinate meaning to a point the debate risks being meaningless. The issue is of course real – How do humans organize into a kinematic sequence, s, that realizes some function, F, that has some accuracy conditions F(S), given that there is a bounded infinity of possible sequences, S? A selectionist approach can possibly help. We start with an inherently active system that naturally varies. We identify the set of multilevel constraints that act as selection mechanisms which shape how gestures are (re)produced. We determine the precision needed for the function to be realized (accuracy conditions), which shapes the selection pressures. During my stay at the Forschungskolleg so far, I have been trying to see if these variables alone are furtile ground for theorization about the complexity of gesture, the nature of gesture types, how gestures evolve, which could become part of a bigger effort to debate the debate about gesture’s determinate meanings. I will intersperse these half-baked theoretical reflections with some recent empirical work. I am hoping to invite an open discussion to further flesh out these matters.