Gestures or signs? Comparing manual and non-manual constructions sharing the same form in co-speech gesture and sign language: a corpus-driven approach. (GeSi)

Dr. Anastasia Bauer, University of Cologne

Project description:
There is a number of manual and non-manual constructions which are not constrained to signed language only, they are also observed in co-speech gesture. The following forms will be systematically treated in this project: palm-up, throw away, pointing, list buoys, eyebrow raise and sidewards body leans. While some of these selected constructions have been researched, other forms remain un(der)studied and there is no fine-graded comparison of all these constructions between signers and speakers. This project fills this gap. It aims at providing a detailed corpus-based analysis of the selected constructions in both co-speech gesture and sign. The goal is to determine how – and to what degree – these constructions in sign language differ from comparable forms in gesture on both functional and formation grounds. As these constructions share the same modality, they will be given the same theoretical treatment and will be investigated along a number of various dimensions blurring the strict gesture-sign binary and backing the understanding of these manual and non-manual activities as forming a cross-modal continuum along which functional conventionalization and lexicalization takes place. Distinguishing signs and gesture, the two prime examples of visual communication, this project also provides further insights into the interaction of different channels and the grammatical system(s) underlying this interaction contributing to a new modality-free comprehensive theoretical model of language and communication.