2022. № 2 (32), 184-199

Institute of Linguistics of the Russian Academy of Sciences,

M. V. Lomonosov Moscow State University


Hand gestures in face-to-face dialogue perform many functions, and their number and character depend on characteristics of a text. Most frequent in narration are depictive gestures (also called iconic, [McNeill 1992]). Pointings and beats are used too, along with the type we call pragmatic [Nikolaeva 2017]. We distinguish two main groups of gesture functions: intra-discursive (this group includes depictives and most part of poin- tings) and meta-discursive (pragmatic and rhythmic gestures). Given that a gesture can perform a few functions, choosing only one of them can be done by defi ning a hierarchy of meanings and a formal procedure for choosing the function. We used formal features of the movement, such as complex trajectory and/or hand form for depictives, two-direction movement of fl ax hand for beats, recognizable iconic hand form for pointings and recurrent features combined with the repeating meaning for pragmatics. Alternative approach is seeing each gesture as a combination of two or more functions (which is partly implemented in the RUPEX corpus, see [Litvinenko et al. 2018]). Taking other kinetic channels (movements of the body, legs or the head) into ac- count, the choosing a particular function for every gesture becomes more complicated. In addition, other channels may highlight hand movements of low amplitude as gestures, while without this support from other channels they were classifi ed as self-adaptors. The share of manual gestures “found” with the help of other channels is up to 6%. After the complex analysis of the speaker’s kinetic behavior, it can be seen that some channels (manual, but also elbows movements) mostly convey intra-discursive meanings and illustrate the events being described; some gestures (head and especially shoulders movements) are associated with meta-discursive information. Thus, in the studied sub- corpus (30 min, recording #22 from the RUPEX corpus) manual gestures are mostly de- pictive and pragmatic (35% and 29% respectively). Head gestures are mostly pragmatic and depictive (57% and 20% respectively). Pointing gestures aсcount for 14% of hand movements and 4% of head movements. For head gestures, their formal features can be a basis for their functional classification, too. Among depictives, there are up, down, back or forth movements as gestures with the spatial meaning, while turns, head rotations, shifts, head shakes can perform pragmatic, depictive or pointing functions. Head tilts usually refer not to gestures, but to posture changes driven by the speaker’s comfort and not by their communicative intention.