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.

Title: Movements of signification: From physical origins to linguistic devices

Date: June 2

Time: 4 pm – 6 pm ct


Manual gestures are bodily postures in motion which signify in coordination with speech. Gestures have primarily gathered attention from cognitive psychologists, linguists, and anthropologists, who are united under the umbrella of ‘gesture studies’. Gestures studies aims to triangulate what meaning lies behind a mere movement, inferring their significance through meticulous interpretation, where whole worlds have been envisaged about what makes movements meaningful: e.g., Gestures are held to reflect an inner world of sensorimotor simulations; Gestures are schematizations of thought; Gestures are primordial symbols. Such views have emancipated gestures, as unique windows into the human mind. We are, it turns out, not merely moving about.

In this talk I will however stop for a moment to peer through gesture, and appreciate gesture qua movement. What do we see? We see (part 1) that there is pulse-quality of gesture producing forces through acceleration, thereby physically and functionally perturbing speech processes; grounding gesture’s phylogeny, ontogeny, and cognition, in physiology. We further see (part 2) that to study gesture as linguistic devices researchers need not reduce nor enrich continuous body movements to discrete meanings – gestures can be shown to be linguistically constrained in movement by interrelating the kinematics of gestures that comprise a gesture system. I conclude therefore that we arealso, it turns out, just moving about, but in more significant ways than previously thought.