1932

Abstract

Gesture is intimately entwined with human language and thought. It is a tool for communication as well as cognition: conveying information to interlocutors, orchestrating interaction, and supporting problem-solving and learning. Over the past 25 years, the community of scholars interested in gesture has grown from a specialized group to a multidisciplinary community incorporating gesture into a wide range of topics. This article aims to capture and continue that growth by introducing readers to some of the most intriguing findings and questions in gesture research. It adopts a four-field approach, integrating multiple literatures and introducing work from outside anthropology. It defines key terminology and reviews five areas that have undergone significant recent growth: the integration of gesture with speech, gesture as communication and cognition, gesture's role in learning and language development, cultural variation in gesture, and the role of gesture in language origins. Taken together, these areas demonstrate that gesture is entangled with language, thought, and identity, starting in early childhood. This tangle has deep evolutionary roots; indeed, gesture may have been part of the human story from its start.

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2022-10-24
2024-04-23
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