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People often produce gestures while speaking. Speech–gesture research is one of the emerging fields in psycholinguistics that, by referring to speech-accompanying gestures, attempts to elucidate the underlying process in which qualitatively different types of thinking, e.g. imagistic thinking and linguistic thinking, become coordinated with one another. The question regarding the impact of one type of thinking on another, or rather the relation between the two, is not unique at all. In fact, it has been wrestled with over the years not only in psychology of language, but also in the other neighboring areas of study (e.g. Whorf, 1956; Vygotsky, 1986). In addition, studies of either speech or gesture alone are not new in the history of psychology, either. Gesture was indeed one of the topics of study for the founding fathers of psychology, such as Willem Wunt, as was speech for anyone studying language. What is unique in the speech–gesture study under review here is that the relation between the two is the topic of study. With speech and gesture as the “double windows” we hope the way in which different types of thinking underlie linguistic communication can be elucidated more fully than ever before (McNeill, 1992).
Typical questions addressed in speech–gesture studies include the following: what exactly is gesture and how is it different from speech? What is the relation between speech and gestures in timing? Do gestures facilitate speech? Do gestures help organize the discourse? Are gestures involved in language acquisition in children and/or in second language acquisition?
Do people gesturally interact with each other? If so, how? Is there any consistent and more or less systematic change in the way one of the participants in a dyadic communication gesturally responds to her partner as the latter participant's gesture changes? These are the questions which will be pursued in the present chapter.
These questions have rarely been addressed in the field of gesture–speech research. Most studies have focused on the relationship between speech and gesture in single speakers, who are merely individual participants in the narrative settings as a whole. The speakers have been analyzed independently of the interaction with the communicative partner. This paradigm, which can be called a narrator-centered paradigm, has raised many important questions and brought a variety of significant insights into the field. If gestural interaction between interlocutors can also be found, and if we can determine how partners gesturally interact, the present study will shed new light on the theory of spontaneous gestures to the extent that the model of gesture and speech should take into consideration inter personal factors as well as intra personal factors (Vygotsky 1962; McNeill & Duncan, this volume).
Some researchers have already begun paying attention to and describing the phenomena of gestural interaction in a broad sense in pursuit of the question of what the listener does in a narrative setting. As one may easily imagine, even in an experimental setting the listener is actively engaged in the communication by using non-verbal behavior, such as nodding and shaking her head, making facial expressions to show whether she comprehends what she has heard, and responding to what the narrator talks about by, for example, smiling.
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