fdb – Forschungsdatenbank der Europa-Universität Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder)


Dr. Silva Ladewig: Cyclic Gesture

Projektleitung Dr. Silva Ladewig, Laura Hirrel (University of New Mexico, USA)
Time span 06/2017
Fakultät Kulturwissenschaftliche Fakultät
Lehrstuhl Professur für Sprachgebrauch und Multimodale Kommunikation


Cyclic gestures are a recurrent type of manual gesture formally characterized by a continuous circular movement of the hand. While speakers across languages use cyclic form gestures when they talk, only one published research study to date, specifically looking at German, has examined the relationship this particular type of gesture has to language. Ladewig (2011, 2014) found that cyclic gestures used in German are associated with both the literal and metaphorical expression of ongoing actions expressed in speech. The basic form and the semantic core (i.e., cyclic continuity) of the cyclic gesture, Ladewig argues, are motivated by the image schema cycle, which has emerged from experiences with cyclic motions and the recurrence and repetition of events through time. As the form of the cyclic gesture is itself a continuous or repeated action, this gesture type offers a fruitful avenue of departure for crosslinguistically exploring patterns associated with the multimodal expression of lexical and grammatical aspect.

In this study we examine associations between cyclic gesture use and aspect in three languages: English, German, and Persian (Farsi). The aims of this study are (1) to describe what types of aspectual construals are recurrently used with cyclic gestures in each language, (2) to explore whether different formal variants of cyclic gestures in each language are associated with different aspectual construals, and (3) to identify crosslinguistic similarities and language-specific patterns to the use of cyclic gestures with regard to the expression of aspect. Data come from video recordings of everyday conversations and interactions in German and from television talk show programs in German, American English, and Farsi.

Our study finds that, across the three languages, cyclic gestures are used recurrently with spoken language constructions that include continuous, habitual, and iterative aspectual construals. Crosslinguistic similarities in the use of cyclic gestures for the expression of particular aspectual meanings support Ladewig’s analysis of an experiential basis for cyclic gestures. The findings also suggest an interaction of language and gesture on the level of grammar, which can lead to the formation of language-specific multimodal constructions.


Internationales Projekt Ja
Internationales Kooperationsprojekt University of New Mexico, USA