Gesture in Multiparty Interaction: A Study of Embodied Discourse in Spoken English and American Sign Language
This dissertation is an examination of gesture in two game nights: one in spoken English between four hearing friends and another in American Sign Language between four Deaf friends. Analyses of gesture have shown there exists a complex integration of manual gestures with speech. Analyses of sign language have implicated the body as a medium capable of rendering symbolically complex structures that wax and wane linguistic. By incorporating a Peircean semiotic analysis of symbols (including spoken and sign language) in the tradition of interactional sociolinguistics, I analyze both spoken and sign discourses as situated engagements that effect and are affected by the embodied, composite utterances (Enfield 2009) contained within them.To address simplified conceptualizations of gesture as a continuum of forms, I compare embodied utterances in an array of interactive environments, showing the flexibility and constraints of the gestural modality. When participants played the game, gesture took on full burden of communication and both hearing and deaf players continued to use their bodies in similar ways to structure the utterances as part of a discourse (cf. Bavelas 1994). When participants shifted tasks to setting up the game, they incorporated items from the physical surround into their composite utterances. As participants engaged across speech events they managed turns, marked stance, and conveyed propositions integrating manual and nonmanual forms to accomplish coherent discourses (Schiffrin 1987). I highlight gestural mimicry and gestural mirroring as instances of embodied repetition and two manual forms called the Open Hand Palm Up and Gun Handshape Palm Up as examples of corporal discourse markers.These findings complicate theoretical treatments of gesture as points on a continuum. By reframing the discussion of gesture's relationship to language as fundamentally an issue of how people engage through their bodies, I argue a unified theory of gesture can incorporate both spoken and sign languages.
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