Giving language a hand: gesture as a cue based communicative strategy *

Research output: Working paper


All accounts of communicative behaviour in general, and communicative strategies in particular, mention gesture1 in relation to language acquisition (cf. Faerch & Kasper 1983 for an overview). However, few attempts have been made to investigate how spoken language and spontaneous gesture combine to determine discourse referents. Referential gesture and referential discourse will be of particular interest, since communicative strategies in second language discourse often involve labelling problems.
This paper will focus on two issues:
1) Within a cognitive account of communicative strategies, gesture will be seen to be part of conceptual or analysis-based strategies, in that relational features in the referents are exploited;
2) It will be argued that communication strategies can be seen in terms of cue manipulation in the same sense as sentence processing has been analysed in terms of competing cues. Strategic behaviour, and indeed the process of referring in general, are seen in terms of cues, combining or competing to determine discourse referents. Gesture can then be regarded as being such a cue at the discourse level, and as a cue-based communicative strategy, in that gesture functions by exploiting physically based cues which can be recognised as being part of the referent. The question of iconicity and motivation vs. the arbitrary qualities of gesture as a strategic cue will be addressed in connection with this.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • General Language Studies and Linguistics


  • communication strategies, gesture
Original languageEnglish
PublisherDepartment of Linguistics, Lund University
Publication statusPublished - 1995
Publication categoryResearch

Publication series

NameWorking Papers, Lund University, Dept. of Linguistics
ISSN (Print)0280-526X

Bibliographic note

The information about affiliations in this record was updated in December 2015. The record was previously connected to the following departments: Linguistics and Phonetics (015010003)

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