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Language as description, indication, and depiction

Ferrara, L; Hodge, G; (2018) Language as description, indication, and depiction. Frontiers in Psychology , 9 , Article 716. 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00716. Green open access

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Abstract

Signers and speakers coordinate a broad range of intentionally expressive actions within the spatiotemporal context of their face-to-face interactions (Parmentier, 1994; Clark, 1996; Johnston, 1996; Kendon, 2004). Varied semiotic repertoires combine in different ways, the details of which are rooted in the interactions occurring in a specific time and place (Goodwin, 2000; Kusters et al., 2017). However, intense focus in linguistics on conventionalized symbolic form/meaning pairings (especially those which are arbitrary) has obscured the importance of other semiotics in face-to-face communication. A consequence is that the communicative practices resulting from diverse ways of being (e.g., deaf, hearing) are not easily united into a global theoretical framework. Here we promote a theory of language that accounts for how diverse humans coordinate their semiotic repertoires in face-to-face communication, bringing together evidence from anthropology, semiotics, gesture studies and linguistics. Our aim is to facilitate direct comparison of different communicative ecologies. We build on Clark’s (1996) theory of language use as ‘actioned’ via three methods of signaling: describing, indicating, and depicting. Each method is fundamentally different to the other, and they can be used alone or in combination with others during the joint creation of multimodal ‘composite utterances’ (Enfield, 2009). We argue that a theory of language must be able to account for all three methods of signaling as they manifest within and across composite utterances. From this perspective, language—and not only language use—can be viewed as intentionally communicative action involving the specific range of semiotic resources available in situated human interactions.

Type: Article
Title: Language as description, indication, and depiction
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00716
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00716
Language: English
Additional information: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in the credit line; if the material is not included under the Creative Commons license, users will need to obtain permission from the license holder to reproduce the material. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
Keywords: Sign language, multimodal, semiotics, language, indexicality, depiction
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Linguistics
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10049239
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