Gesture and Thought

Gesture and Thought

Gesture and Thought

Gesture and Thought

Synopsis

Gesturing is such an integral yet unconscious part of communication that we are mostly oblivious to it. But if you observe anyone in conversation, you are likely to see his or her fingers, hands, and arms in some form of spontaneous motion. Why? David McNeill, a pioneer in the ongoing study of the relationship between gesture and language, set about answering this question over twenty-five years ago. In Gesture and Thought he brings together years of this research, arguing that gesturing, an act which has been popularly understood as an accessory to speech, is actually a dialectical component of language.
Gesture and Thought expands on McNeill's acclaimed classic Hand and Mind. While that earlier work demonstrated what gestures reveal about thought, here gestures are shown to be active participants in both speaking and thinking. Expanding on an approach introduced by Lev Vygotsky in the 1930s, McNeill posits that gestures are key ingredients in an "imagery-language dialectic" that fuels both speech and thought. Gestures are both the "imagery" and components of "language." The smallest element of this dialectic is the "growth point," a snapshot of an utterance at its beginning psychological stage. Utilizing several innovative experiments he created and administered with subjects spanning several different age, gender, and language groups, McNeill shows how growth points organize themselves into utterances and extend to discourse at the moment of speaking.
An ambitious project in the ongoing study of the relationship of human communication and thought, Gesture and Thought is a work of such consequence that it will influence all subsequent theory on the subject.

Excerpt

This book is a companion to Hand and Mind, which appeared in 1992. The key ideas were planted in that earlier book and in numerous ways have been developed and extended in this one. In 1992 the emphasis was on how gestures reveal thought; now it is how gestures fuel thought and speech. The new step is to emphasize the 'dynamic dimension' of language—how linguistic forms and gestures participate in a real-time dialectic during discourse, and thus propel and shape speech and thought as they occur moment to moment. As in the earlier book, gestures, language, and thought are seen as different sides of a single mental/brain/action process. They are integrated on actional, cognitive, and ultimately biological levels. The difference is that now I present gestures as active participants in speaking and thinking. They are conceived of as ingredients in an imagery-language dialectic that fuels speech and thought.

The gestures I mean are everyday occurrences—the spontaneous, unwitting, and regular accompaniments of speech that we see in our moving fingers, hands, and arms. They are so much a part of speaking that one is often unaware of them, but if you look around and watch someone talking in informal terms you are likely to see the hands and arms in motion. Why? This is the question I propose to answer, ultimately in evolutionary terms.

To obtain an answer, in part, I carry forward an approach introduced by Vygotsky in the 1930s. Vygotsky is celebrated as an alternative to Piaget and, for many, as an antidote to a kind of sterile asocial cognitivism they imagine (not altogether inaccurately) dominates current linguistics and cognitive . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.