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Gestural expression, perception and language: A discussion of the ideas of Johan Jakob Engel

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This paper discusses J. J. Engel’s theory of mimicry, which is part of a broad discussion within German philosophy in late 1700 about physiognomics i.e. human bodily expression and perception. The core of Engel’s investigation consists in a theory of human gesture which avoid both the conventional and the physiological elements and focuses on the semantic and reflective components. The author shows how this reflection about the symbolic devices involved in gestural comprehension and communication develop a parallel reflection about the origin and functioning of verbal processes of communication.
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Keywords: Johan Jakob Engel (1741–1802); gesture; origin of language; physiognomy; speech; theatre; understanding

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Calabria

Publication date: January 1, 2003

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