Volume 24, Issue 1
  • ISSN 0929-0907
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9943
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Speakers perform manual gestures in the physical space nearest them, called . We used a controlled elicitation task to explore whether speakers use gesture space in a way (assign spaces to ideas and use those spaces for those ideas) and whether they use space in a way (assign different spaces to different ideas when using contrastive speech) when talking about abstract referents. Participants answered two questions designed to elicit contrastive, abstract discourse. We investigated manual gesture behavior. Gesture hand, location on the horizontal axis, and referent in corresponding speech were coded. We also coded contrast in speech. Participants’ overall tendency to use the same hand ((17) = 13.12,  = .001, 95% CI [.31, .43],  = 2.53) and same location ((17) = 7.47,  = .001, 95% CI [.27, .47],  = 1.69) when referring to an entity was higher than expected frequency. When comparing pairs of gestures produced with contrastive speech to pairs of gestures produced with non-contrastive speech, we found a greater tendency to produce gestures with different hands for contrastive speech: ((17) = 4.19,  = .001, 95% CI [.27, .82],  = 1.42). We did not find associations between dominant side and positive concepts or between left, center, and right space and past, present, and future, respectively, as predicted by previous studies. Taken together, our findings suggest that speakers do produce spatially consistent and contrastive gestures for abstract as well as concrete referents. They may be using spatial resources to assist with abstract thinking, and/or to help interlocutors with reference tracking. Our findings also highlight the complexity of predicting gesture hand and location, which appears to be the outcome of many competing variables.

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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): embodiment; gesture; multimodality; referential space; spatial cognition
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