Pointing: Where Language, Culture, and Cognition Meet

Pointing: Where Language, Culture, and Cognition Meet

Pointing: Where Language, Culture, and Cognition Meet

Pointing: Where Language, Culture, and Cognition Meet

Synopsis

The chapters cross-reference each other, and engage in inter-disciplinary debate on pointing gestures, a fundamental human communicative behavior, where language, culture, and cognition meet. The volume can be used as a required text in a course on gestural communication with multi-disciplinary perspectives. It can also be used as supplemental text in advanced undergraduate or graduate course on interpersonal communication, cross-cultural communication, language development, and psychology of language. Contents: S. Kita, Introduction. G. Butterworth, Pointing Is the Royal Road to Language for Babies. D. Povinelli, J.M. Bering, S. Gambrone, Chimpanzees' Pointing: Another Error of the Argument by Analogy? N. Masataka, From Index-Finger Extension to Index-Finger Pointing: Ontogenesis of Pointing in Preverbal Infants. S. Goldin-Meadow, C. Butcher, Pointing Toward Two-Word Speech in Young Children. A. Kendon, L Versante, Pointing by Hand in "Neapolitan." J. Haviland, How to Point in Zinacantan. D. Wilkins, Why Pointing With the Index Finger Is Not a Universal (in Socio-Cultural and Semiotic Terms). C. Goodwin, Pointing as Situated Practice. H. Clark, Pointing and Placing. E. Engberg-Pedersen, From Pointing to Reference and Predication: Pointing Signs, Eyegaze, Head and Body Orientation in Danish Sign Language. D. McNeill, Abstract Deixis and Morality. S. Kita, Interplay of Gaze, Hand, Torso Rotation, and Word in Pointing.

Excerpt

This volume examines pointing gestures from a multidisciplinary viewpoint. Pointing has captured the interest of scholars from different disciplines who study communication: linguists, semioticians, psychologists, anthropologists, and primatologists. However, ideas and findings have been scattered across diverse journals and books, and researchers are often not aware of results in other disciplines. To date, there have been few opportunities for interdisciplinary exchange of information. The aim of this volume is to provide an arena for such exchange.

The prototypical pointing gesture is a communicative body movement that projects a vector from a body part. This vector indicates a certain direction, location, or object. Why is investigation of pointing gestures important? Because it is a foundational building block of human communication. Pointing is foundational in four respects.

First, it is ubiquitous in our day-to-day interaction with others. When communicating about referents locatable in the speech situation, pointing is almost inevitable. Even when we talk about referents that are distant in space and time, we often point to the seemingly empty space in front of us. Such pointing assigns a certain meaning to the location in the space, and we point back to the same location later in the discourse (see McNeill, chap. 12). The assignment of a meaning to a location by pointing is part of the grammar of signed languages. Pointing in signed languages is equivalent to, and used as frequently as, pronouns in spoken languages (“every . . .

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