From left to right...: Coverbal gestures and their symbolic use of space

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This study overlaps with Johnson’s (1987) ideas about the image schemas underlying thought, but rather than grasping them through the deductive analysis of verbal metaphors, they are approached here through the analysis of the symbolic components of gestures which, accompanying speech, refer to abstract entities. The corpus analyzed was compiled from six television interviews with the French Prime Minister, Lionel Jospin. The interviews averaged thirty minutes and took place over a one-year period. Only symbolic variations along the transverse axis, which is both symmetrical and oriented, are studied. The transverse axis appears to encompass several symbolic axes: a value axis, a spatio-temporal axis, and a logico-temporal axis, themselves derived from the axes of physical progression, which are growth, walking, and writing. A fourth, two-directional symbolic axis depicting an evolving process is added to the above. Successive translations of the upward and forward axes on to the rightward axis, achieved for contextual or ergonomic reasons, are mentally possible, since all three are axes of physical progression. This projection on to the side-toside axis accounts for the semiologically motivated complexity of the symbolic system represented on this major axis.


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