"Hé, look at what I'm doing with my hands": a study of hand and gaze practices in older LSFB signers and speakers' interactions

Project: PHD

Project Details


This project lies at the gesture-sign interface. It focuses on the interactional dimension and relevance of addressing manual and gaze practices in the context of signed interaction and how these mechanisms compare to those in spoken interaction.
Languages, including sign languages (SLs), do not only enable people to express utterance meaning but also to interact. Social interaction is the primary site for language use, or as Schegloff once pointed out: “its home habitat” (1996). Co-participants in dialogues organize their conduct through a wide array of meaningful resources, including hand movements such as palm-ups, pointing gestures, holds, (self-) adaptors and gaze shifts. Some of these have been recognized as interactive means to regulate turn-taking, express common ground or even seek responses from the addressee, revealing the importance of social processes in language use (Bavelas et al. 2008). Similarly, signers also perform gesture (Engberg-Pedersen 2002; Sandler 2009; Vermeerbergen & Demey 2007). However, interactional components in SL conversation (Cibulka 2016) and how they occur in the non-pathological aging process (Thornton & Light 2006) are still unexplored.
The main question is to what extent such comparison can shed new light on the understanding of the gesture-sign paradigm (Goldin-Meadow & Brentari 2017). Rather than treating them as opposite entities, this study argues for an integration of sign and gesture as part of a continuum on the interactive level. Using ELAN, annotations and analyses of palm-ups, pointing gestures, holds, (self-) adaptors and gaze in approximately 20 minutes of multimodal data of two older women (75 y. old and more) (CorpAGEst corpus, Bolly & Boutet fothc.) (task: milestones in aging) and two older men (66 y. old and more) (LSFB corpus, Meurant 2015) (task: explanation of a past memory) were conducted. Moreover, the same protocol of the LSFB corpus was replicated on four hearing participants, constituting the first multimodal cross-linguistic study between LSFB and Belgian French (BF). Two participants were also analyzed.
Ultimately, the benefits are multifaceted: (1) foster scientific exchanges between SL and gesture researchers, and shed new light on previously neglected aspects in gesture, SL and aging, (2) understand more about the language faculty in its multimodal aspect, (3) achieve a better understanding of the interactive world of BF speakers and signers in their late life, an issue with vital implications for today’s increasing aging population.
Effective start/end date1/10/1830/09/20

Attachment to an Research Institute in UNAMUR