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Postcards from the mind: The relationship between speech, imagistic gesture, and thought

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In this paper, I compare three different assumptions about the relationship between speech, thought and gesture. These assumptions have profound consequences for theories about the representations and processing involved in gesture and speech production. I associate these assumptions with three simplified processing architectures. In the Window Architecture, gesture provides us with a ‘window into the mind’. In the Language Architecture, properties of language have an influence on gesture. In the Postcard Architecture, gesture and speech are planned by a single process to become one multimodal message. The popular Window Architecture is based on the assumption that gestures come, as it were, straight out of the mind. I argue that during the creation of overt imagistic gestures, many processes, especially those related to (a) recipient design, and (b) effects of language structure, cause an observable gesture to be very different from the original thought that it expresses. The Language Architecture and the Postcard Architecture differ from the Window Architecture in that they both incorporate a central component which plans gesture and speech together, however they differ from each other in the way they align gesture and speech. The Postcard Architecture assumes that the process creating a multimodal message involving both gesture and speech has access to the concepts that are available in speech, while the Language Architecture relies on interprocess communication to resolve potential conflicts between the content of gesture and speech.

Keywords: cognitive architecture; gesture and speech; iconic gesture; representational gestures; window into the mind

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics

Publication date: January 1, 2007


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