Volume 1, Issue 1
  • ISSN 2666-4224
  • E-ISSN: 2666-4232



Interactional linguists are interested in ways in which communicative resources emerge from interactional practice. This paper defines a place for the study of gesture within interactional linguistics, conceived as ‘linguistics of time’ (Hopper, 2015). It shows how hand gestures of a certain kind – conceptual gestures – emerge from ‘hands-on’ instrumental actions, are repeated and habitualized, and are taken to other communicative contexts where they enable displaced reference and conceptual representation of experiences.

The data for this study is a video-recording of one work-day of an auto-shop owner (Streeck, 2017). The corpus includes auto-repair sequences in which he spontaneously improvises new gestures in response to situated communication needs, and subsequent narrative sequences during which he re-enacts them as he explains his prior actions. He also makes numerous ‘pre-fabricated’ gestures, gestures that circulate in the society at large and that are acquired by copying other conversationalists. They are ready-made manual concepts. The paper explains the life-cycle of conceptual gestures from spontaneous invention to social sedimentation and thereby sheds light on the ongoing emergence of symbolic forms in corporeal practice and intercorporeal communication.

This work was made publicly available by the publisher.

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Keyword(s): conceptualization; evolution; gesture; grammaticalization; interaction
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