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How Given and New Information Shape the Form of Conversational Hand Gestures
Unformatted Document Text:  5 the transformation of a hand movement from a non-symbolic action to a symbolic, communicative gesture? Once interlocutors consider a movement communicative, they must agree on what the gesture is standing for. In considering this transformation from action to a gesture, and what the process allows us to do, LeBaron and Streeck (2000) proposed the following: the formation of a symbol is a defining moment in the fabrication of shared knowledge because it allows the participants to focus upon and reinvoke previously shared experiences and to plan and conduct shared activities in their wake. (LeBaron & Streeck, 2000) p. 118, emphasis added) In other words, when people transform an action into a communicative gesture they are forming a symbol. They can form symbols representing their own previously performed actions, or actions they saw, or even ones that they imagined. Once two interlocutors mutually agree on the meaning of the symbol, they can use it to communicate. These spontaneously improvised gestures become a new vocabulary, one that the speakers tailor for that particular time and place. They can use the new gestural vocabulary, for example, to remember, to play, to plan, to teach. Studying Gestures as Symbols We studied the symbolic aspect of gestures experimentally by comparing them directly to the referent actions. A comparison of the actual hand movements performed for each might shed light on the process of transformation. To analyze the difference between an action and a gesture, we watched individuals performing an action and then watched the same individuals symbolizing their action as a gesture. The record of the two allowed us to see both action and gesture simultaneously, making it straightforward to observe any physical differences between the two. Ordinarily when we see a gesture, we have not seen the original action.

Authors: Gerwing, Jennifer.
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5
the transformation of a hand movement from a non-symbolic action to a symbolic,
communicative gesture?
Once interlocutors consider a movement communicative, they must agree on what the
gesture is standing for. In considering this transformation from action to a gesture, and what the
process allows us to do, LeBaron and Streeck (2000) proposed the following:
the formation of a symbol is a defining moment in the fabrication of shared knowledge
because it allows the participants to focus upon and reinvoke previously shared
experiences and to plan and conduct shared activities in their wake. (LeBaron & Streeck,
2000) p. 118, emphasis added)
In other words, when people transform an action into a communicative gesture they are forming
a symbol. They can form symbols representing their own previously performed actions, or
actions they saw, or even ones that they imagined. Once two interlocutors mutually agree on the
meaning of the symbol, they can use it to communicate. These spontaneously improvised
gestures become a new vocabulary, one that the speakers tailor for that particular time and place.
They can use the new gestural vocabulary, for example, to remember, to play, to plan, to teach.
Studying Gestures as Symbols
We studied the symbolic aspect of gestures experimentally by comparing them directly to
the referent actions. A comparison of the actual hand movements performed for each might shed
light on the process of transformation. To analyze the difference between an action and a gesture,
we watched individuals performing an action and then watched the same individuals symbolizing
their action as a gesture. The record of the two allowed us to see both action and gesture
simultaneously, making it straightforward to observe any physical differences between the two.
Ordinarily when we see a gesture, we have not seen the original action.


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