< Back to previous page


Visual Downtoning. A systematic comparison of downtoning patterns in German co-speech gesture and in German Sign Language.

In language studies, the term 'downtoning' is used for the expression of subtle nuances which can be added to an utterance without changing its truth value, in that they indicate, for instance, the speaker's view on the content of the utterance, or give an indication about which reaction the speaker expects from the hearer. Previous research on German downtoning particles (a particular kind of marker of downtoning) has shown that when people use them, they often also produce certain gestures, i.e. body movements made spontaneously when speaking. For instance, when they use einfach 'simply', people tend to shake their heads, and when they use ja 'as you know', people tend to point at the interlocutor (i.e. the 'you' in the paraphrase), typically with the flat hand rather than with just one finger. Research on sign languages has revealed that such pragmatic meanings (i.e. not referring to concrete actions, objects, or creatures) are often expressed by means of signs which resemble the gestures made in spoken language when expressing these meanings. The aim of this project is to investigate these resemblances for downtoning in German, i.e. to compare downtoning gestures in spoken German with downtoners in German Sign Language. The project will not just focus on similarities in form, but also look at similarities in use (e.g. the point in the sentence at which the gesture/sign is produced).

Date:1 Oct 2014 →  30 Sep 2018
Keywords:German co-speech gesture, German Sign Language
Disciplines:Theory and methodology of literary studies