Relating gesture to speech: reflections on the role of conditional presuppositions
In his paper ‘Gesture Projection and Cosuppositions,’ Philippe Schlenker argues that co-verbal gestures convey not at-issue content by default and in particular, that they trigger conditional presuppositions. In this commentary, I take issue with both of these claims. Conditional presuppositions do not supply a systematic means for capturing the semantic contribution of a co-verbal gesture. Some gestures appear to contribute content inside of a negation when their associated speech content is likewise embedded; in other cases, co-verbal gestures arguably contribute unconditional content to the global level. When this happens, we can infer what might look like a conditional presupposition, but this inference follows naturally from general principles already at work in purely verbal discourse and does not justify the claim that gesture content is contributed to a conditional presupposition. Problems exposed in the discussion of conditional presuppositions show that we are not yet in a position to make a general claim about the at-issue status of co-verbal gestures.
KeywordsCo-verbal gesture Iconic gesture Gesture and speech Discourse
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.
Juan de la Cierva fellowship IJCI-2014-22059, funded by the Ministerio de Economía, Industria, y Competitividad, Spain.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The author declares that she has no conflict of interest.
Human and animal rights
The author declares that the research in this paper did not involve human participants or animals.
- Ebert, C., & Ebert, C. (2014). Gestures, demonstratives, and the attributive/referential distinction. Talk given at Semantics and Philosophy in Europe (SPE 7), Berlin, June 28, 2014.Google Scholar
- Ebert, C., Evert, S., & Wilmes, K. (2011). Focus marking via gestures. In Proceedings of Sinn and Bedeutung (Vol. 15). Saabrücken.Google Scholar
- Goldin-Meadow, S., & Brentari, D. (2016). Gesture, sign and language: The coming of age of sign language and gesture studies. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 40, 1–82.Google Scholar
- Hunter, J., & Asher, N. (2016). Shapes of conversation and at-issue content. In M. Moroney, C. Little, J. Collard & D. Burgdorf (Eds.), Semantics and Linguistic Theory (SALT) (Vol. 26, pp. 1022–1042).Google Scholar
- Jasinskaja, K. (2016). Salience and (not-)at-issue status of subordinate clauses. In Sinn und Bedeutung (Vol. 21). Forthcoming.Google Scholar
- Kamp, H., & Reyle, U. (1993). From discourse to logic: Introduction to modeltheoretic semantics of natural language, formal logic and discourse representation theory. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.Google Scholar
- McNeill, D. (1992). Hand and mind: What gestures reveal about thought. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- Shanon, B. (1976). On the two kinds of presuppositions in natural language. Foundations of Language, 14, 247–249.Google Scholar
- Tieu, L., Pasternak, R., Schlenker, P., & Chemla, E. (2018). Co-speech gesture projection: Evidence from inferential judgments. Glossa: a journal of general linguistics, 3(1).Google Scholar
- von Fintel, K. (2004). Would you believe it? The King of France is back!. In M. Reimer & A. Bezuidenhout (Eds.), Descriptions and beyond, (pp. 315–341). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar