We are happy to announce talks by Sebastian Walter (Frankfurt) and Lennart Fritzsche (Frankfurt) in the Semantics Colloquium.

The talks will take place on campus in IG 4.301.
If you wish to participate virtually via Zoom, please contact Lennart Fritzsche for the link.

Date: June 6, 2024

Time: 4 pm – 6 pm ct 


Sebastian Walter (first half of the session)

Title: Viewpoint matters: Prototypical vs. non-prototypical co-speech gestures in the VP domain (joint work with Cornelia Ebert and Stefan Hinterwimmer)

In this talk, Ebert et al.’s (2020) theory of the semantic contribution of co-speech gestures is extended to the VP domain. We investigate the distinction between what we call prototypical and non-prototypical co-speech gestures in that domain.

Prototypical gestures in general resemble the prototypical concept they depict (in the case of (1), for example, waving with one hand). Non-prototypical gestures, by contrast, can be seen as modified alternatives of a prototypical gesture that are interpreted completely iconic (in (1), e.g., waving with both hands). Crucially, an instance of a non-prototypical gesture has to resemble the original event in a contextually relevant manner.

(1) Peter [waves at] Mary. + waving co-speech gesture

Drawing from Ebert et al. (2022) and Ebert & Hinterwimmer (2022), we propose a formalism where a prototypical gesture denotes an event type which is in large parts not interpreted iconically whereas non-prototypical gestures depend on a viewpoint variable and are interpreted iconically. Moreover, we spell out Ebert et al.’s (2020) similarity predicate SIM for the verbal domain. We argue that viewpoint is, in the verbal domain, one factor the similarity predicate can depend on.



Lennart Fritzsche (second half of the session)

Title: Modified pro-speech gestures as mixed items

Schlenker (2021) provides pioneering evidence that modifications of pro-speech gestures (i.e., gestures that replace speech) appear to be not-at-issue. Such modifications may involve changes in manner added to the ’neutral‘ gesture. For example in (1), this might include some indication of effort or difficulty involved in lifting, such as trembling hands or facial expressions, as shown in (2).

(1) This box, Nina had to LIFT.
(2) This box, Nina had to LIFT-difficult.
(LIFT denotes a pro-speech lifting gesture that mimics the event of lifting said box with both hands.)

If modifications of pro-speech gestures are indeed not-at-issue, then a modified pro-speech gesture should contribute information in two dimensions: the meaning provided by the neutral gesture in the at-issue dimension and the information provided by the modification in the not-at-issue dimension. In this talk, I present results from a rating study supporting this claim.