Offering a hand to pragmatic understanding: the role of speech and gesture in comprehension and memory

Kelly, S.D., Barr, D.J., Church, R.B., and Lynch, K. (1999) Offering a hand to pragmatic understanding: the role of speech and gesture in comprehension and memory. Journal of Memory and Language, 40(4), pp. 577-592. (doi:10.1006/jmla.1999.2634)

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Abstract

Most theories of pragmatics take as the basic unit of communication the verbal content of spoken or written utterances. However, many of these theories have overlooked the fact that important information about an utterance's meaning can be conveyed nonverbally. In the present study, we investigate the pragmatic role that hand gestures play in language comprehension and memory. In Experiments 1 and 2, we found that people were more likely to interpret an utterance as an indirect request when speech was accompanied by a relevant pointing gesture than when speech or gesture was presented alone. Following up on this, Experiment 3 supported the idea that speech and gesture mutually disambiguate the meanings of one another. Finally, Experiment 4 generalized the findings to different types of speech acts (recollection of events) with a different type of gesture (iconic gestures). The results from these experiments suggest that broader units of analysis beyond the verbal message may be needed in studying pragmatic understanding.

Item Type:Articles
Keywords:cognitive_science
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Barr, Dr Dale
Authors: Kelly, S.D., Barr, D.J., Church, R.B., and Lynch, K.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology
Journal Name:Journal of Memory and Language
ISSN:0749-596X
ISSN (Online):1096-0821

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