Salient criterions in gesture classification: Developmental perspective in humans

Abstract : Gesture has become an important object of scientific interest during the last several decades. That observation is documented by an increasing number of new studies, publications and conference talks. However, when it comes to bringing up all pieces of acquired and presented knowledge together, one question emerges: Do we really make research, write and talk about the same ”thing”? In literature, we observe a multitude of different and frequently incompatible understandings and classifications of gestures (see e. g., Guidetti, Fibigerova, & Colletta, 2014; Kendon, 2004; McNeill, 1992). With no intention to approach the ontological fundamentals of the topic, the aim of the above question is to initiate a debate on the variety of phenomena that actually can be, should be or actually are, considered as ”gesture”. In order to establish a ”common ground” among gesture scholars, we would like to address the following questions: (1) what has gesture to do with language evolution and development? (2) what is it that develops? and (3) why study both the forms and the functions of gesture? (1) If language is considered as a mean of adaptation (Verschueren, 1991) language acquisition is one way, but not the only one, to adapt to the social environment. There is a heuristic interaction between evolutionist theories and developmental theories which, as a consequence, let us to have a theoretical position on language acquisition where the function and the use are crucial and where language acquisition has to be tightly linked to social cognition. In this sense language cannot be considered as a ”communicative revolution” since it is preceded by gestures in young children. Regardless of the position on the ”gesture-first” hypothesis of language origin (for: Corballis, 2014 or against : McNeill, 2014), taking account social cognition and the functions and the uses of communication have lead to a close look to non human primates gestures. (2) If for McNeill (2014), ”there is no way to get from Acquisition 1 –before age 3/4 – to Acquisition 2 ”– from age 3/4I because ”there are on different tracks”, we would also like to have a closer look on the continuity/discontinuity in the use and thus on the classification/terminology of gestures at the prelinguistic and the linguistic periods (3) If we consider the use and the functions as crucial, we have to clearly dissociate the forms and the functions of gestures in a multilevel model of data analysis We will argue and illustrate these different points with data from current research.
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Contributor : Katerina Fibigerova <>
Submitted on : Wednesday, October 17, 2018 - 12:53:45 PM
Last modification on : Tuesday, July 9, 2019 - 10:12:54 AM

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  • HAL Id : hal-01897567, version 1

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Katerina Fibigerova, Michèle Guidetti. Salient criterions in gesture classification: Developmental perspective in humans. 7th Conference of the International Society for Gesture Studie, Jul 2016, Paris, France. ⟨hal-01897567⟩

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