The Biological Foundations of Gestures: Motor and Semiotic Aspects

By Jean-Luc Nespoulous; Paul Perron et al. | Go to book overview

15
Shrugging Shoulders, Frowning Eye-Brows, Smiling Agreement: Mimic and Gesture Communication in the Aphasic Experience

Dominique Labourel


INTRODUCTION

In work dealing with aphasic patients, the usual approach to aphasia consists in testing patients in order to assess their linguistic competence. Insofar as our point of view is ethological, we have analyzed videotaped recordings of several such patients. However, studying mimics and gesture on a screen is somewhat like looking at T.V. in a foreign country or like looking at someone gesticulating in a telephone booth; body movements are the cues to what is being said.

Oral communication is, by far, the most developed aspect of language. Yet, speaking cannot express everything. When we speak, more than words are being exchanged and when we do not speak a great deal can also be exchanged without a word being said. From the moment two individuals get together, they communicate. The various attitudes of each of the interlocutors, their gestures and mimics mean something. But a look, a face, a gesture, a countenance, an intonation, a silence have no meaning if they are analyzed separately. They only convey meaning when a person's behavior is considered globally in a communicative situation.

Exchange between individuals, each of them having a particular status, is located at a given place, at a given moment and refers to their past relationship. This exchange is a function of a particular context and of the requirements of the situation. We can easily imagine that if one of the modes of communication is modified, the exchange strategy and its content will therefore be modified. Are compensations possible? And if so, of what type are they? Do they cover all deficits? In other words, when "language" itself is disturbed, can we communi-

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