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Across time, across the body

Transversal temporal gestures

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Talk about time is commonly accompanied by co-speech gesture. Though much recent work has looked at how time is construed as space in the languages of the world, few studies have examined temporal gestures in any detail. Our focus is on a particular pattern among American English speakers — transversal temporal gestures — in which time is conceptualized as moving from left to right across the body. Based on numerous examples elicited in a controlled observational paradigm, we suggest a classification of American English speakers' transversal temporal gestures into five types — placing, pointing, duration-marking, bridging, and animating — and provide examples of each type. Discussion focuses on the following three topics: the usefulness of quasi-experimental approaches for the study of gesture; variation in temporal gestures across cultures; and how temporal gestures fit into a broader understanding of metaphorical gestures.


Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: October 1, 2009

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