Cuffari E. C. (2012) Gestural sense-making: Hand gestures as intersubjective linguistic enactments. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 11(4): 599–622.
Gestural sense-making: Hand gestures as intersubjective linguistic enactments.
Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 11(4): 599–622.
The ubiquitous human practice of spontaneously gesturing while speaking demonstrates the embodiment, embeddedness, and sociality of cognition. Spontaneous co-speech gesture confirms embodied aspects of linguistic meaning-making that formalist and linguistic turn-type philosophical approaches fail to appreciate, while also forefronting intersubjectivity as an inherent and normative dimension of communicative action. Co-speech hand gestures, as linguistically meaningful speech acts, demonstrate sedimentation and spontaneity (in the sense of Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s dialectic of linguistic expression), or features of convention and nonconvention in a Gricean sense. Yet neither pragmatic nor classic phenomenological approaches to communication can accommodate the practice of co-speech hand gesturing without some rehabilitation and reorientation. Pragmatic criteria of intersubjectivity, normativity, and rationality need to confront the nonpropositional and nonverbal meaning-making of embodied encounters. Phenomenological treatments of expression and intersubjectivity must consider the normative nature of high-order social practices like language use. Reciprocally critical exchanges between these traditions and gesture studies yield an improved philosophy that treats language as a multi-modal medium for collaborative meaning achievement. The proper paradigm for these discussions is found in enactive approaches to social cognition. Relevance: The view in this paper is constructivist as it argues for a middle-way understanding of meaning co-construction as neither internal nor external, but rather as multimodal and multi-body enacting.