Chapter 6. Measuring the formal diversity of hand gestures by their hamming distance

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Based on the assumption that the formal diversity of gestures indicates their potential information content, we developed a method that focuses on the analysis of physiological and kinetic aspects of hand gestures. A form-based transcription with the Hamburg Notation System for Sign Languages (HamNoSys, Prillwitz et al. 1989) constitutes the basis for the calculation of a measure of the formal diversity of hand gestures. We validated our method in a study with healthy persons, who retold the same short video clips first verbally and then without speaking. The silent condition was expected to elicit higher formal diversity of hand gestures since they have to transmit information without support from language (Goldin-Meadow et al. 1996). Results were in line with our expectations. We conclude that the determination of the formal diversity of hand gestures is an adequate method for gesture analysis which is especially suitable for analysing the gestures of persons with language disorders.


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