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Resting hand postures: An index of what a speaker may do next

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Abstract:

Persons engaged in talking often make manual gestures. When a gesture or a sequence of such gestures ends, the hands are brought to a rest position. In previous work it has been observed that in such rest positions the hands tend to assume one of two poses: Collection, in which the digits are lightly semi-flexed and closed, and Stationing, in which the digits are open and the digits and palm contact the body or a surface. In previous work it has also been observed that in practical actions such as reaching, Collection occurs when advancing the hand to grasp something. This has also been observed when the hand is lifted in preparation for a gesture. Stationing has been observed to occur once the hand ends a reaching action or when the hand returns to a rest position after engaging in gesture. In light of this, it was proposed that in conversations where speakers are engaging in gesturing, hands in a rest position of Collection might reflect an intention to continue discourse, and hands in a rest position of Stationing an intention to discontinue it. Accordingly, the occurrence of Collection and Stationing was noted in video recordings of pairs of subjects in conversations in which they were trying to agree about some topic given to them for debate. A Collected hand posture was frequently associated with continuation of an argument. A Stationed hand posture was frequently associated with a speaker’s concluding statements. Listeners were also observed to show Collection and Stationed hand shapes when speakers were engaged in continuing and concluding discourse, respectively. The relationship between speech intention and resting hand postures is discussed in relation to the possible meaningful roles that resting hand shape may have in discourse.

Keywords: communicative intent of gesture; gesture and resting hand posture; gestures and speech; reaching; resting hand posture and speech

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1075/gest.12.1.05dos

Publication date: 2012-01-01

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