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From cutting an object to a clear cut analysis: Gesture as the representation of a preconceptual schema linking concrete actions to abstract notions

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The representation of the concrete world is an abstraction. The elements that are physically pertinent to reality are synthesized in a gestural, schematic and ergonomic representation. Although schematic, this representation is nuanced: the gestural variants are numerous in order to account for the way we cut things: differences in size and configuration of blades as well as in their manipulation in a single or repeated movement. Representing an abstract notion derived from the act itself, gesture evolves towards increasing simplification and integrates the representation of other notions that enrich the first: cf. the semantic nuances supplied by the plane of the hand and the orientation of the palm in order to evoke ‘cut plus division’, ‘cut plus obstacle’, etc. Moreover, on the semantic level one witnesses a process of generalization: the passage from concrete to abstract, and in the abstract world, from one domain to another: the individual knows how ‘trancher / to decide’ and is ‘tranchant / abrupt’. From the physical and symbolic comparison of the gestural variants referring to all kinds of cuts, a common percept emerges: a gap in a continuum, a representative schema explaining the cut as an interruption. The question addressed is: does gesture not directly account for the abstract schema loaded with imagery from diverse perceptual experiences (representation of acts and their results) at the basis of the concept (representation of the notion)?
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Keywords: concept; iconic & metaphoric gesture; preconceptual schema; semantics

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: CNRS — Université Paris V / ENS Lettres et Sciences Humaines de Lyon

Publication date: 2003-01-01

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