Prof. Dr. Irene Mittelberg
Winter term 2009/10
Research colloquium

Current topics in gesture and sign language research

The last twenty years have seen an increasing amount of research into manual gestures, both as visuo-spatial expressions integrated with speech and as the primary mode of expression in signed languages. Much of the research on this topic stems from the fields of cognitive linguistics, psychology, anthropology and neuroscience (e.g. Emmorey 2000, Kendon 2004, Liddell 2004, McNeill 2005), where gestures are studied for the insights they offer to conceptual semiotic processes, such as indexicality, iconicity, metonymy and metaphor (e.g. Taub 2001). Until recently, gestures in spoken and sign languages were studied separately, as disparate phenomena, but contemporary theoretical and methodological work advocates the need to study the diverse manifestations of gesture in one paradigm (e.g. Kendon 2008, Wilcox 2008).

In this research colloquium, we will first explore how fundamental semiotic principles manifest themselves in both coverbal gestures and signed languages; we will then move on to study topics currently discussed in gesture and sign language research. Combining theoretical discussions of the proposed literature with hands-on data analyses (partly based on studies carried out in the Natural Media Lab at HumTec), the goal is to further understand the nature and semiotics of gestures and the role they play in human language, cognition, and evolution.

The colloquium is open to postdoctoral, doctoral and MA students with some background in semiotics, linguistics, gesture studies, and/or sign language studies.
The working language will be English.

Some references:
Emmorey, K. (2000) Language, Cognition, and the Brain. Insights from Sign Language Research. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.
Kendon, A. (2004). Gesture: Visual action as utterance. Cambridge University Press.
Kendon, A. (2008) Some reflections on the relationship between ‘gesture' and ‘sign'. In Gesture 8:3, 348-366.
Liddell, S. (2004) Grammar, gesture, and meaning in American Sign Language. Cambridge University Press.
McNeill, D. (2005) Gesture and thought. Chicago University Press.
Taub, S. (2001) Language from the body: Iconicity and metaphor in American Sign Language. Cambridge University Press.
Wilcox, S. (2008) Sign and gesture: Towards a new paradigm. In Cienki, A. & C. Müller (Eds.) Metaphor and gesture. John Benjamins.

Meeting time & place: Tuesdays, 10.00-12:15, HumTec, room 303

For further information, please email Prof. Mittelberg

and see Campus