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How Given and New Information Shape the Form of Conversational Hand Gestures
Unformatted Document Text:  14 During each of the short dialogues, participant A at some point identified the whirlygig for the other participant. As soon as the addressee understood what the toy was, the participants shared some given information. The speaker could then go on to discuss other new aspects of the whirlygig against this background of given information. The focus of the analyses of the gestures was how the given and new information, at any moment, could account for the physical form of the various portrayals. To understand this qualitative analysis, it is necessary to know what the gestures could portray. Gestural depictions of the whirlygig When talking about how they played with the whirlygig, interlocutors used gestures depicting various aspects of it. The following examples illustrate some of these referents. Physical features of the toy: “The other one was just 1 like a plastic, um, stick almost 2 with a propeller on it?” Gesture 1: index fingers and thumbs of both hands pinched together. One hand seemed to hold the bottom of a stick while the other moved as though sliding up and down either side of a narrow vertical stick. Gesture 2: the hand pinching the bottom of the virtual stick remained in position while the other pointed a few centimeters away from either side of the top of the stick, as though pointing to the tips of two blades of a propeller attached to the top. Gestures one and two completed the information presented in words, adding unique information that was not present otherwise. The gestures represented physical features of the whirlygig, not movements or actions. Things the toy did: Gesture 3: “Yeah it hit me in the face.”

Authors: Gerwing, Jennifer.
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14
During each of the short dialogues, participant A at some point identified the whirlygig for
the other participant. As soon as the addressee understood what the toy was, the participants
shared some given information. The speaker could then go on to discuss other new aspects of the
whirlygig against this background of given information. The focus of the analyses of the gestures
was how the given and new information, at any moment, could account for the physical form of
the various portrayals. To understand this qualitative analysis, it is necessary to know what the
gestures could portray.
Gestural depictions of the whirlygig
When talking about how they played with the whirlygig, interlocutors used gestures
depicting various aspects of it. The following examples illustrate some of these referents.
Physical features of the toy:
“The other one was just
1
like a plastic, um, stick almost
2
with a propeller on it?”
Gesture 1: index fingers and thumbs of both hands pinched together. One hand seemed to
hold the bottom of a stick while the other moved as though sliding up and down either side of
a narrow vertical stick.
Gesture 2: the hand pinching the bottom of the virtual stick remained in position while the
other pointed a few centimeters away from either side of the top of the stick, as though
pointing to the tips of two blades of a propeller attached to the top.
Gestures one and two completed the information presented in words, adding unique
information that was not present otherwise. The gestures represented physical features of the
whirlygig, not movements or actions.
Things the toy did:
Gesture 3: “Yeah it hit me in the face.”


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