17 The Role of Iconic Gesture in Semantic Communication and its Theoretical and Practical Implications

Geoffrey Beattie, Heather Shovelton

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


[David McNeill has claimed that, “[u]tterances possess two sides, only one of which is speech; the other is imagery, actional and visuo-spatial.” One implication of this claim is that listeners should receive considerable amounts of information from the gestures that accompany talk. This chapter reviews the experimental evidence to test this hypothesis. The basic paradigm involves a comparison of the information listeners receive when they hear speech and see accompanying gestures compared with just hearing speech. This programme of research provides conclusive evidence that gestures do communicate. The chapter also tests the implications of McNeill’s theory for the design of TV adverts and provides evidence that the inclusion of gestures in these adverts is a most effective way of communicating information. The overall conclusion is that the research of McNeill has major implications for our conceptualisation of human communication as well as all attempts to make communication more effective.]
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGesture and the Dynamic Dimension of Language
EditorsSusan D Duncan, Justine Cassell, Elena T Levy
PublisherJohn Benjamins Publishing Company
Number of pages21
ISBN (Print)9789027228413
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jun 2007


  • semantic communication


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