Silva Ladewig (Europa-Universität Viadrina, Frankfurt/Oder) und Sedinha Teßendorf (Europa-Universität Viadrina, Frankfurt/Oder):

Collaborative metonymy

Vortrag im Rahmen von „Das Konkrete als Zeichen“, 12. Internationaler Kongress der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Semiotik (DGS), Stuttgart, 9. bis 12. Oktober 2008; Sektion „Gesten in der Kommunikation: Prozesse der Konkretisierung und Abstraktion“.



Co-verbal gesture and speech have been regarded as “one integral process” whereby “gestures open up a wholly new way of regarding thought processes, language, and the interaction of people.” (McNeill 1992: 12) Following this tradition gestures are often described as a “window into thinking“ (McNeill 2000) which means that gestures iconically and metonymically (Mittelberg 2006) reflect aspects of objects or events a speaker / gesturer focuses on at the moment of speaking (e.g. Cienki & Müller fc.; McNeill 1992, 2000, 2005; Müller 2007; Mittelberg & Waugh fc.). In cognitive approaches, what is conveyed in the gesture is to be regarded as salient in the speaker’s mind at that very moment (Müller 2007; Mittelberg fc.) However, gestures are not only an act of thinking but also an act of communication (Kendon 2004; McNeill 1992, 2005; Streeck 2002). In conversations people co-construct meaning and reference through vocal speech and gestures. In an interactive approach Tabensky (2002) focused on rephrasings, where interlocutors take up and modify formal aspects of the gestures of their interlocutors in order to transport new information. Kimbara (2006) showed that people take up gestures from their interlocutors (“gestural mimicry”) and then develop them jointly when talking about one event / object.

Our interactive and cognitive study, based on 12 hours of naturally occurring German and Spanish discourse (Ladewig 2006; Müller 1998; Tessendorf 2005), reveals two ways in which speakers work on one discourse object / event: (1) two or more speakers refer to it by using gestural form features recurrently across the different turns at talk which is reflected by using the same modes of gestural representation (Müller 1998 in prep.). Speakers pick up their interlocutors’ gestures and slightly alter single form features, whereas the whole “gestalt” of the gesture remains unchanged (Kimbara 2006). (2) two or more speakers refer to one discourse object /event thereby using different gestural forms which may be reflected in varying gestural modes of representation altering the metonymic path between the gesture and its base (Müller fc.). The different gestures show that the speakers access the object / event from different angles which may not be explicit in speech. In both cases reference and cohesion between the different turns at talk are established by the gestures as they metonymically provide access to the referred object.


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