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Signal of a referee by gesture: Communication of a decision

Gesture is the set of gestures as movements of interpersonal communication are used. In particular, movements of the arms , hands and head accompany or replace messages in a respective spoken language . Gestures are signs of non-verbal communication .


The word gesture, which generally means a gesture accompanying the speech and appears around 1500 on making gestures public joker , is a borrowing from the Latin gestus , which includes the gestures of an actor or speaker. It belongs to the verb lat. Gerere in the German meaning of to show off, to behave. The Latin verb gesticulari is derived from this root word via the diminutive gesticulus ( pantomimic movements ) , from which the word suggest in the 16th century and the word gesticulate was borrowed in the 17th century . Gestures and gestures show mental processes, and they are an actual expression of a person's psyche.


Gesture research has broken away from non-verbal communication research since the mid-1990s , where gesture was viewed only as an affective expression of feelings . At the moment, the field of research moves between linguistics , psychology , cognitive science , semiotics , behavioral research and sign language .


Gestures can be divided into the following types:

  • Lexicalized gestures: These are gestures that work like a lexeme and are learned, for example various insulting gestures , the rubbing of fingertips together for means of payment.
  • Deictic gestures: A well-known deictic gesture is pointing with a finger - it is one of the first gestures ever to be learned by children. In adults, this gesture is often used as an abstract pointing to non-existent objects, places or ideas. Instead of the hand, other body parts or objects that are held in the hand can be used for a pointing gesture.
  • Iconic gestures: they form as an icon , the reality in a metaphorical form from - for example, in imitation of an action, in presenting the outline of an object or placing an object in space. Gestures can not only relate to concrete things, but also relate to abstractions , e.g. show a theory as a building with several floors.
  • Metaphorical gestures: They represent metaphors , for example when performing a gesture as if something is being held in the hand - the gesture wants to describe holding an idea. Or when both hands indicate a division: on the one hand the good and on the other the bad.
  • Rhythmic gestures: These are rhythmic movements that emphasize or underline something. Such a gesture can mark an important point in a conversation, whereby the repeated repetition can represent a concept or a guiding principle, for example when parents explain something to their children for the supposed thousandth time and move their hand up and down with each word with their index finger.

Synchronicity and co-expressiveness

The two main properties of gesture are that firstly (convey) meaning and secondly appear in sync with language. From a neurological point of view, gesture planning comes before text conception. It usually ends with the spoken word, but starts earlier. Jan Peter de Ruiter has developed a sketch model for this: his call-up / access hypothesis explains that gestures have a facilitating effect on speech production. Gesture and word are often understood and perceived as a unit. They express the same idea (unit). The gesture has a communicative purpose. To analyze this purpose analytically, gestures are divided into three categories:

  • The unit , which comprises an interval between pauses in arm or hand movements, i.e. the entire gesture including its assembly and disassembly. It consists of one or more gesture phases.
  • The phase that describes the gesture itself. It can consist of up to five phases.
  • The phases can in turn be categorized into further parts.

Phases of a gesture

The preparation phase , which prepares the main gesture. Mostly it is followed by the prestroke hold , which delays the most important part of a gesture that Stroke delays until the corresponding linguistic segment is ready to be articulated and at the same time signals to the listener that this segment was expected. The hands are in a position that is held until the corresponding linguistic segment is articulated. The next phase, the stroke , is the most important part of a gesture, as this transmits the actual meaning. This can also be proven by the fact that the stroke is 90% co-expressive with the language, can precede it, which is also the case 10%, but never follow it. Now the stroke-hold phase can follow, which does not describe a movement, but a holding position together with a meaning. An example of this is when someone wants to describe the second floor of a house and raises their hand and holds it there while describing. The post-stroke-hold phase can follow next, which occurs if the gesture has been carried out but the linguistic part continues. The so-called retraction can come at the end of a phrase . The hands go back to the resting position. However, if another phrase follows, the retraction phase can be canceled.

Connection between gestures and language

As long as language and gestures have the same meaning, they are as good as inseparable. This is shown by various observations that have been made. The delayed auditory feedback (DAF), in which the recorded speech of a speaker and his time offset (time offset> = 25 ms) is reproduced, showing that the speech flow during whose slow and hesitant is. Often stuttering is called during the attempt. Nevertheless, gestures and language always remain in sync. You can also see the strong bond between language and gestures in experiments with stuttering people. This is where gestures can help over stuttering. In some experiments it has been observed that once a stroke begins, the stutter never begins at the same time. Although this could be observed in other phases. Stuttering could even set in during the stroke phase. But never at the same time at the beginning of this phase. As soon as stuttering set in, it could be observed that not only the flow of speech was interrupted, but also the gestures. The hands stopped and came to rest. As soon as the stuttering stopped, the flow of speech could be resumed and the gestures continued in sync with the speech.

Even in experiments in which people who were blind from birth - mainly children - were examined, a strong link between speech and gesture could be observed. Blind children have been exposed to other children of the same age and sex and should explain a few things. The children were told whether the child is also blind to or can see. It didn't matter whether they were both blind or not, the children always showed the same amount of gestures. This shows that the bond between speech and gestures is strong in everyone from birth. It often happened in experiments that people should remember statements after the attempt and describe whether the statement was a gesture or verbal information. Gestures were often declared as verbal information even though they were not actually spoken. This effect could also be observed in the other direction. This observation, too, shows a strong interweaving and synchronicity between the perception of gestures and language.

Gestural perspectives

The perspectives that appear in gestures are of two types:

  • The third person perspective ( observer viewpoint )
  • The first person perspective ( character viewpoint ).

In the observer viewpoint , the hands represent individual entities such as trees, houses, people, etc. in a narration . The area in front of the narrator is the action area. The character viewpoint is given when the narrator's hands also represent the hands of a person in his narration. In this way, the narrator himself is in the action area.

The perspectives can also appear together in one gesture, such as when a person holds an object in his hand and z. B. falls down. The fist in which the imaginary object is held represents the object and is thus the observer viewpoint , and the falling movement of the narrator with the object in hand corresponds to the character viewpoint .

Lexical Affiliate (LA)

The lexical affiliate of a gesture is the word or words that are closest to a gesture. It does not correspond to the co-expressive language segment (CE). A gesture can precede the LA, but at the same time be synchronized with its CE speech segment. The LA can be recognized by comparing the gesture and the spoken word in contrast to CE, which can only be inferred from the context. An example to illustrate the difference between co-expressivity and the LA would be the following sentence describing how a lock works: “Raise the pins to their required height at which it is [possible] to lock the key turn. ”- In this sentence, a key turning movement is carried out when the word 'possible' is used. The LA is 'key' or 'key to turn'. The meaning of the gesture - the co-expressive part - is that it is even possible to turn the key.

See also


  • Jan N. Bremmer , Herman Roodenburg (Ed.): A Cultural History of Gesture. From Antiquity to the Present Day. New edition Polity Press, Cambridge 1994, ISBN 0-7456-1101-X .
  • Hans-Gustav von Campe: Daily technology. Studies on the gestures of the activities. University Library, Kassel 1987 (also Diss. Bielefeld 1983), ISBN 3-88122-370-3 .
  • Margreth Egidi , Oliver Schneider, Irene Schütze, Caroline Torra-Mattenklott (eds.): Gestik. Figures of the body in text and images. Gunter Narr, Tübingen 2000, ISBN 3-8233-5707-7 .
  • Adam Kendon: An Agenda for Gesture Studies. In: Semiotic Review of Books , Vol. 7.3 (1997) ISSN  0847-1622 Online.
  • Adam Kendon: Gesture. Visible Action as Utterance . Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2004, ISBN 978-0-521-83525-1 .
  • Cornelia Müller: Gestures accompanying the speech. Cultural history, theory, comparison of languages. Dissertation at the FU Berlin 1996. Spitz, Berlin 1998, ISBN 3-87061-747-0 .
  • David McNeill: Hand and Mind. What gestures reveal about thought. Chicago University Press, Chicago, Ill. 1995, ISBN 0-226-5613-4-8 .
  • David McNeill: Gesture and Thought. University of Chicago Press, 2005, ISBN 0-226-5146-2-5 .
  • Nico Pezer: Gesture in the performing arts . In: Nico Pezer (Ed.): Neurorhetorik. Fink, Paderborn 2017, ISBN 978-3-7705-5817-9 , pp. 127–152.
  • Christine Vogt (Ed.) The gesture: art between jubilation, thanks and thoughtfulness. Masterpieces from the Peter and Irene Ludwig Collection. From antiquity to Albrecht Dürer and Roy Lichtenstein. Kerber Verlag, Oberhausen 2018, ISBN 978-3-7356-0506-1 .

Web links

Commons : Gestures  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Gesture  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Gestures  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. a b Duden: The foreign dictionary. Mannheim 2007, Lemma gesture.
  2. ^ Friedrich Kluge : Etymological dictionary of the German language. De Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1975, Lemma gesture.
  3. Duden: The dictionary of origin. Etymology of the German language. Mannheim 2007, Lemma gesture.
  4. Jan Peter de Ruiter: The production of gesture and speech. P. 298. (See web link.)