Vol. 19, No. 3
Doing Time: Speech, gesture, and the conceptualization of time
Department of Cognitive Science, University of California, San Diego
Gesture is intimately linked to speech in both timing and semantic content, and thus provides an extremely rich source of empirical evidence about the nature of abstract conceptual thought. Building on previous research into the metaphorical construal of time as space, we investigate the role of gesture in English speakers’ moment-to-moment temporal conceptualization processes. In a controlled observational paradigm, participants were video-recorded telling each other the story of the history of the universe as presented to them in a graphical stimulus. Based on our data, we suggest a classification of English speakers’ temporal gestures into five types—placing, pointing, duration-marking, bridging, and animating—and provide examples of each type. Discussion focuses on the following three topics: the usefulness of quasi-experimental approaches for the study of abstract thought; variability in temporal gestures, both across different discursive moments and across different cultures; and bow temporal gestures fit into a broader understanding of metaphorical gestures.