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How Given and New Information Shape the Form of Conversational Hand Gestures
Unformatted Document Text:  8 Portrayals number 1 and 2 were both quick movements showing the whole motion required for the task. These quick gestural depictions emphasized the required motion. Because the addressee had actually seen her play with the toy, the two quick gestures were sufficient for her to recognize the toy to which the speaker was referring. Their function was to simply to identify the toy, and the addressee indicated that she understood. Portrayals 3 and 4 showed separate aspects of the action abstracted from the whole motion. For portrayal number 3, the speaker just showed the position of the hand that remained stationary. In the fourth gesture, she maintained the held hand and depicted the starting position of the other hand. Now the gestures served the communicative function of indicating how to launch the toy. They were no longer intended to help with identification, they functioned as educational tools, showing separate aspects of the required action separated from the whole. Portrayals 5, 6, and 7 were all renditions of the whole motion again, each becoming faster as the speaker had evidence that her addressee understood what the toy was and how one should act upon it. Each portrayal was different from the original action: each one eliminated some movements and emphasized others. The portrayals were different because the form of each gesture was dependent on the gesture’s communicative function at the precise moment it appeared. Each, however, had the same referent. I propose that the differences in the physical forms of the speaker’s gestures can be accounted for by subtle variations in their immediate communicative functions. Given and New Information One way of capturing the immediate communicative function of a gesture is to make use of the concept of given and new information. Clark (1992) discussed this concept in his outline of three properties of discourse:

Authors: Gerwing, Jennifer.
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8
Portrayals number 1 and 2 were both quick movements showing the whole motion
required for the task. These quick gestural depictions emphasized the required motion. Because
the addressee had actually seen her play with the toy, the two quick gestures were sufficient for
her to recognize the toy to which the speaker was referring. Their function was to simply to
identify the toy, and the addressee indicated that she understood.
Portrayals 3 and 4 showed separate aspects of the action abstracted from the whole
motion. For portrayal number 3, the speaker just showed the position of the hand that remained
stationary. In the fourth gesture, she maintained the held hand and depicted the starting position
of the other hand. Now the gestures served the communicative function of indicating how to
launch the toy. They were no longer intended to help with identification, they functioned as
educational tools, showing separate aspects of the required action separated from the whole.
Portrayals 5, 6, and 7 were all renditions of the whole motion again, each becoming faster
as the speaker had evidence that her addressee understood what the toy was and how one should
act upon it. Each portrayal was different from the original action: each one eliminated some
movements and emphasized others. The portrayals were different because the form of each
gesture was dependent on the gesture’s communicative function at the precise moment it
appeared. Each, however, had the same referent. I propose that the differences in the physical
forms of the speaker’s gestures can be accounted for by subtle variations in their immediate
communicative functions.
Given and New Information
One way of capturing the immediate communicative function of a gesture is to make use
of the concept of given and new information. Clark (1992) discussed this concept in his outline
of three properties of discourse:


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