A gesture is a form of non-verbal communication or non-vocal communication in which visible bodily actions communicate particular messages, either in place of, or in conjunction with, speech. Gestures include movement of the , face, or other parts of the Human body. Gestures differ from physical non-verbal communication that does not communicate specific messages, such as purely expressive displays, proxemics, or displays of joint attention.Kendon, Adam. (2004) Gesture: Visible Action as Utterance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Gestures allow individuals to communicate a variety of feelings and thoughts, from contempt and hostility to approval and affection, often together with body language in addition to when they speak. Gesticulation and speech work independently of each other, but join to provide emphasis and meaning.
Gesture processing takes place in areas of the brain such as Broca's and Wernicke's areas, which are used by speech and sign language.Xu J, Gannon PJ, Emmorey K, Smith JF, Braun AR. (2009). Symbolic gestures and spoken language are processed by a common neural system. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 106:20664–20669. In fact, language is thought by some scholars to have evolved in Homo sapiens from an earlier system consisting of manual gestures. The theory that language evolved from manual gestures, termed Gestural Theory, dates back to the work of 18th-century philosopher and priest Abbé de Condillac, and has been revived by contemporary anthropologist Gordon W. Hewes, in 1973, as part of a discussion on the origin of language.Corballis, Michael. (January/February 2010). "The gestural origins of language." © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. WIREs Cogn Sci 2010 1 2–7
A study done in 1644, by John Bulwer an English people physician and early Baconian method natural philosopher wrote five works exploring human communications pertaining to gestures.Wollock, J. (2002). John Bulwer (1606–1656) and the significance of gesture in 17th-century theories of language and cognition. Gesture. 2 (2), Bulwer analyzed dozens of gestures and provided a guide under his book named Chirologia which focused on hand gestures. In the 19th century, Andrea De Jorio an Italian antiquarian who was a considered a of research about body language published an extensive account of gesture expressions.
Andrew N. Meltzoff an American psychologist conducted who's internationally renown on infant and child development conducted a study in 1977 on the imitation of facial and manual gestures by new born. The study concluded that "infants between 12 and 21 days of age can imitate the facial and manual gestures of parents". In 1992, David McNeill a professor of linguistics and psychology at the University of Chicago wrote a book based on his ten years of research and concluded that "gestures do not simply form a part of what is said, but have an impact on thought itself." Meltzoff argues that gestures directly transfer thoughts into visible forms, showing that ideas and language cannot always be express. A peer-reviewed journal Gesture has been published since 2001, and was founded by Adam Kendon and Cornelia Müller. The International Society for Gesture Studies (ISGS) was founded in 2002.
Gesture has frequently been taken up by researchers in the field of dance studies and performance studies in ways that emphasize the ways they are culturally and contextually inflected. Performance scholar, Carrie Noland, describes gestures as "learned techniques of the body" and stresses the way gestures are embodied corporeal forms of cultural communication.Noland, Carrie. Agency and Embodiment : Performing Gestures/producing Culture. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2009. p. 2. But rather than just residing within one cultural context, she describes how gesture migrate across bodies and locations to create new cultural meanings and associations. She also posits how they might function as a form of "resistance to homogenization" because they are so dependent on the specification of the bodies that perform them.Noland, Carrie. "Introduction." Migration of Gesture. Ed. Carrie Noland and Sally Ann Ness. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008. p. x.
Gesture has also been taken up within queer theory, ethnic studies and their intersections in performance studies, as a way to think about how the moving body gains social meaning. José Esteban Muñoz uses the idea of gesture to mark a kind of refusal of finitude and certainty and links gesture to his ideas of ephemera. Muñoz specifically draws on the African-American dancer and drag queen performer Kevin Aviance to articulate his interest not in what queer gestures might mean, but what they might perform.Muñoz, José Esteban. Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity. New York: New York University Press, 2009. Juana María Rodríguez borrows ideas of phenomenology and draws on Noland and Muñoz to investigate how gesture functions in queer sexual practices as a way to rewrite gender and negotiate power relations. She also connects gesture to Giorgio Agamben's idea of "means without ends" to think about political projects of social justice that are incomplete, partial, and legibile within culturally and socially defined spheres of meaning.Rodríguez, Juana María. Sexual Futures, Queer Gestures, and Other Latina Longings. New York: NYU Press, 2014.
Within the field of linguistics, the most hotly contested aspect of gesture revolves around the subcategory of Lexical or Iconic Co-Speech Gestures. Adam Kendon was the first linguist to hypothesize on their purpose when he argued that Lexical gestures do work to amplify or modulate the lexico-semantic content of the verbal speech with which they co-occur. However, since the late 1990s, most research has revolved around the contrasting hypothesis that Lexical gestures serve a primarily cognitive purpose in aiding the process of speech production. As of 2012, there is research to suggest that Lexical Gesture does indeed serve a primarily communicative purpose and cognitive only secondary, but in the realm of socio-pragmatic communication, rather than lexico-semantic modification.
These gestures can occur during speech, but they may also occur independently of communication, as they are not a part of active communication. While informative gestures may communicate information about the person speaking (e.g. itchy, uncomfortable, etc.), this communication is not engaged with any language being produced by the person gesturing.
Finger gestures are commonly used in a variety of ways, from point at something to indicate that you want to show a person something to indicating a thumbs up to show everything is good.Black, Roxie M. (2011). "Cultural Considerations of Hand Use". Journal of Hand Therapy. 24 (2): 104–111.
Also, in most cultures nodding your head signifies "Yes", which the book "The Definitive Book of Body Language" describes as submissive gesture to representing the conversation is going the direction of the person speaking. Interesting, the book explains that people who are born deaf can show a form of submissive gesture to signify "Yes".
Deictic gestures can refer to concrete or intangible objects or people.
These gestures are closely coordinated with speech. The so-called beat gestures are used in conjunction with speech and keep time with the rhythm of speech to emphasize certain words or phrases. These types of gestures are integrally connected to speech and thought processes.
The elaboration of lexical gestures falls on a spectrum of iconic-metaphorical in how closely tied they are to the lexico-semantic content of the verbal speech they coordinate with. More iconic gesture very obviously mirrors the words being spoken (such as drawing a jagged horizontal line in the air to describe mountains) whereas more metaphorical gestures clearly contain some spatial relation to the semantic content of the co-occurring verbal speech, but the relationship between the gesture and the speech might be more ambiguous.
Lexical gestures, like motor gestures, cannot occur independently of verbal speech. The purpose of lexical gestures is still widely contested in the literature with some linguists arguing that lexical gestures serve to amplify or modulate the semantic content of lexical speech, or that it serves a cognitive purpose in aiding in lexical access and retrieval or verbal working memory. Most recent research suggests that lexical gestures serve a primarily socio-pragmatic role.
Gestural languages such as American Sign Language and its regional siblings operate as complete natural languages that are gestural in modality. They should not be confused with finger spelling, in which a set of emblematic gestures are used to represent a written alphabet. American sign language is different from gesturing in that concepts are modeled by certain hand motions or expressions and has a specific established structure while gesturing is more malleable and has no specific structure rather it supplements speech. We should note, that before an established sign language was created in Nicaragua after the 1970s, deaf communities would use "home signs" in order to communicate with each other. These home signs were not part of a unified language but were still used as familiar motions and expressions used within their family—still closely related to language rather than gestures with no specific structure.
Gestures, commonly referred to as "body language," play an important role in industry. Proper body language etiquette in business dealings can be crucial for success. However, gestures can have different meanings according to the country in which they are expressed. In an age of global business, diplomatic cultural sensitivity has become a necessity. Gestures that we take as innocent may be seen by someone else as deeply insulting.
The following gestures are examples of proper etiquette with respect to different countries’ customs on salutations:
, Tarim Basin, 9th century.]]In Hinduism and Buddhism, a mudra (Sanskrit, literally "seal") is a symbolic gesture made with the hand or fingers. Each mudra has a specific meaning, playing a central role in Hindu and Buddhist iconography.
A common religious gesture include crossing oneself in a number of Christian religions as a sign of respect, typically by kneeling before a sacred object in many.VASC, Dermina, and Thea IONESCU. "Embodying Cognition: Gestures And Their Role In The Development Of Thinking." Cognitie, Creier, Comportament/Cognition, Brain, Behavior 17.2 (2013): 149-150. Academic Search Complete. Web. Gestures play a central role in religious or spiritual rituals such as the Christianity sign of the cross.
Gestures are also a means to initiate a Courtship. This may include elaborate and other movements. Gestures play a major role in many aspects of human life.
Gesturing is probably universal; there has been no report of a community that does not gesture. Gestures are a crucial part of everyday conversation such as chatting, describing a route, negotiating prices on a market; they are ubiquitous.
Additionally, when people use gestures, there is a certain shared background knowledge. Different cultures use similar gestures when talking about a specific action such as how we gesture the idea of drinking out of a cup.
Gestures have been documented in the arts such as in Greek vase paintings, Indian painting or European paintings.
An example, Vitarka-vicara the gesture of discussion and transmission of Buddhist teaching. It is done by joining the tips of the thumb and the index together, while keeping the other fingers straight.
Because of this connection of co-speech gestures—a form of manual action—in language in the brain, Roel Willems and Peter Hagoort conclude that both gestures and language contribute to the understanding and decoding of a speaker's encoded message. Willems and Hagoort's research suggest that "processing evoked by gestures is qualitatively similar to that of words at the level of semantic processing." This conclusion is supported through findings from experiments by Skipper where the use of gestures led to "a division of labor between areas related to language or action (Broca's area and premotor/primary motor cortex respectively)", The use of gestures in combination with speech allowed the brain to decrease the need for "semantic control", Because gestures aided in understanding the relayed message, there was not as great a need for semantic selection or control that would otherwise be required of the listener through Broca's area. Gestures are a way to represent the thoughts of an individual, which are prompted in working memory. The results of an experiment revealed that adults have increased accuracy when they used pointing gestures as opposed to simply counting in their heads (without the use of pointing gestures) Furthermore, the results of a study conducted by Marstaller and Burianová suggest that the use of gestures affect working memory. The researchers found that those with low capacity of working memory who were able to use gestures actually recalled more terms than those with low capacity who were not able to use gestures.Marstaller, Lars and Hana Burianová. "Individual differences in the gesture effect on working memory."Psychonomic Society 20 (2013): 496-500. Academic Search Complete. Web.
Although there is an obvious connection in the aid of gestures in understanding a message, "the understanding of gestures is not the same as understanding spoken language." These two functions work together and gestures help facilitate understanding, but they only "partly drive the neural language system".
It can be recorded using kinematic methodology.
Gestures of different kinds fall within this continuum and include spontaneous gesticulations, language-like gestures, pantomime, emblems, and sign language. Spontaneous gesticulations are not evident without the presence of speech, assisting in the process of vocalization, whereas language-like gestures are "iconic and metaphoric, but lack consistency and are context-dependent". "Language-like gesture" implies that the gesture is assuming something linguistic (Loncke, 2013). Pantomime falls in the middle of the continuum and requires shared conventions. This kind of gesture helps convey information or describe an event.
Following pantomime are emblems, which have specific meanings to denote "feelings, obscenities, and insults" and are not required to be used in conjunction with speech. The most linguistic gesture on Kendon's continuum is sign language, where "single manual signs have specific meanings and are combined with other manual signs according to specific rules".