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Emblems: Meaning at the interface of language and gesture

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posted on 2024-07-08, 01:15 authored by Lauren GawneLauren Gawne, Kensy Cooperrider
Emblems—the THUMBS UP, the HEAD SHAKE, the PEACE SIGN, the SHHH—are communicative gestures that have a conventional form and conventional meaning within a particular community. This makes them more “word-like” than other gestures and gives them a distinctive position at the interface between language and gesture. Here we provide an overview of emblems as a recurring feature of the human communicative toolkit. We first discuss the major defining features of these gestures, and their points of commonality and difference with neighbouring communicative phenomena. Next, we review efforts to document emblems around the world. Our survey highlights the patchiness of global coverage, as well as strengths and limitations of approaches used to date. Finally, we consider a handful of open questions about emblems, including how they mean, how they are learned, and why they exist in the first place. Addressing these questions will require collaboration among linguists, lexicographers, anthropologists, cognitive scientists, and others. It will also deepen our understanding of human semiotic systems and how they interface with each other.

History

Publication Date

2024-06-18

Journal

Volume 9

Volume

9

Issue

1

Pagination

39p.

Publisher

Open Library of the Humanities

ISSN

2397-1835

Rights Statement

© 2024 The Author(s). This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC-BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. See http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

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