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How Given and New Information Shape the Form of Conversational Hand Gestures
Unformatted Document Text:  9 1. The participants in a conversation work together against a background of shared information (common ground); 2. As the discourse proceeds, the participants accumulate shared information by adding to it with each utterance (given information); 3. Speakers design their utterances so that their addressees can readily identify what is to be added to that common ground (new information). When two people are talking, it can be said that they are giving each other information, and that every piece of that information is either “new” or “given” (Haviland & Clark, 1974). New information is new to the discourse at this moment and serves to expand it. Given information is presupposed; the speaker can expect that the hearer knows it (Kess, 1992). A verbal example of the difference between the two comes from our pilot data. In the example, A and B enter into the dialogue with the following presupposed information: they had just each played with two toys, a finger pull and a whirlygig. A few minutes previously they had been told that they played with the same toys and that their task was to talk about their experiences with the toys. Participant A was already sitting in the lab. When participant B entered and sat down, A said: A: So we had the same ones. B: Yeah, so. A: aaah... B: Why didn’t yours fly around? Mine was, crazy! A: Well um, I, well I read the instructions I guess carefully... The presupposed information that the interlocutors share manifests in the elliptical quality of their speech. Both know that their task is to talk about the toys they played with, so A could start

Authors: Gerwing, Jennifer.
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9
1. The participants in a conversation work together against a background of shared
information (common ground);
2. As the discourse proceeds, the participants accumulate shared information by adding
to it with each utterance (given information);
3. Speakers design their utterances so that their addressees can readily identify what is
to be added to that common ground (new information).
When two people are talking, it can be said that they are giving each other information,
and that every piece of that information is either “new” or “given” (Haviland & Clark, 1974).
New information is new to the discourse at this moment and serves to expand it. Given
information is presupposed; the speaker can expect that the hearer knows it (Kess, 1992). A
verbal example of the difference between the two comes from our pilot data. In the example, A
and B enter into the dialogue with the following presupposed information: they had just each
played with two toys, a finger pull and a whirlygig. A few minutes previously they had been told
that they played with the same toys and that their task was to talk about their experiences with
the toys. Participant A was already sitting in the lab. When participant B entered and sat down, A
said:
A: So we had the same ones.
B: Yeah, so.
A:
aaah...
B: Why didn’t yours fly around? Mine was, crazy!
A: Well um, I, well I read the instructions I guess carefully...
The presupposed information that the interlocutors share manifests in the elliptical quality of
their speech. Both know that their task is to talk about the toys they played with, so A could start


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