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Intonation and Prosodic Structure

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Academic Paper


Title: Sociolinguistics in Gesture: How about the "mano a borsa"?
Author: Nicla Rossini
Email: click here TO access email
Homepage: http://www.niclarossini.com
Institution: Università degli Studi di Pavia
Linguistic Field: Applied Linguistics
Abstract: This paper is an attempt to apply classical sociolinguistic methods to gesture studies, in order to clarify the basic relationships between the Social Network (see Hudson, 1997) and human communication. In the past, some attempts have been made to at least classify gesture variation according to geographic areas: among the most valuable ones, let us cite D. Morris (1977), who described human Nonverbal Behaviour as a whole, trying to analyse it within an Ethological-Evolutionary framework; and, Magno Caldognetto & Poggi (1997), who focused on the use Italian Emblems exploring their distribution according to sex, age, and formal versus informal register. Still, only Semantics has been so far taken into account in the study of gesture variation, and only Emblems has been analysed. I will rather focus on a wider concept of variation in gesture, which involves not only gesture semantics, but also gesture performance: since Nonverbal Communication is – as well as Verbal Communication - the result of a complex neuro-motor process, gesture performance and its comprehension must vary according to more complex parameters than those shown by a merely semantic analysis; These parameters involve Size, Timing, Point of Articulation, Locus, (which I define Explicit Gesture Morphology) and Restricted or Incomplete Varieties of the same gesture (see Rossini, forthcoming). In order to clearly exemplify my theory, I will present a different analysis of a well known Emblem, which is the mano a borsa, and I will show that this particular Emblem, rather than being performed or not in different communicative situations, by speakers of different age and sex, can be performed in two different variants, which I call complete mano a borsa and incomplete mano a borsa. The difference between the two synonyms - the second being used in more formal situations, more likely by young women - is conveyed by the fingers' articulation, which I better define Intrinsic Gesture Morphology.
Type: Individual Paper
Status: Completed
Publication Info: Communication Studies, XIII: 3, 144-154. Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Cross-Cultural Communication (CSF 2003).
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