This paper presents the results of an empirical study of the role of co-expressive gesture in spoken academic discourse in English as an academic lingua franca contexts. 22 videorecorded academic presentations given by international research fellows at the Max Weber Programme for Postdoctoral Studies of the European University Institute (Florence, Italy) were transcribed and analysed. The presenters included 6 native-speakers of Italian, 5 speakers of Polish, 6 speakers of Turkish; one native speaker each of Croatian, English, Hungarian, Romanian and Serbian. A formal analysis of the 977 gestures identified in terms of the primary axis along which movement occurs (lateral, sagittal, vertical) reveals a preference for the use of the lateral axis; this result is in line with Casasanto’s (2016) claim that both kinematics and visibility from the viewer’s perspective may make lateral gestures informationally more salient. A functional analysis of speech-accompanying gestures on the lateral axis, instead, shows that both unimanual and bimanual gestures are systematically used by the presenters as “contextualization cues” (Gumperz 1992). Specifically, they serve to (a) orient listeners towards topic by signaling topic focus, (b) reinforce key rhetorical contrasts, and (c) signal discourse structure in ongoing talk. They thus contributes to the overall coherence of spoken academic discourse by making lexical and grammatical cohesive ties more explicit and “surfacing” speakers’ main lines of argument. The study confirms that co-verbal gestures are a vital resource for meaning-making even in settings in which explicit encoding through careful choices in wording and syntax is traditionally highly valued, and should therefore be studied on a par with speech.
|Titolo:||Embodied argument: The role of co-expressive gesture in spoken academic discourse|
|Appare nelle tipologie:||2.1 Contributo in volume (Capitolo o Saggio)|