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  • 2018carrionPhD

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Time gestures: time conceptualisation in English with evidence from gestures in a multimodal corpus

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Publication date2019
Number of pages215
Awarding Institution
Thesis sponsors
  • AHRC
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This thesis is the first large-scale, corpus-based analysis of time conceptualisation using multimodal ‘big’ data. It exploits the NewsScape Library, an extensive television database, to investigate co-speech gestures for temporal expressions in English.
This research investigates time conceptualisation by studying gesture patterns that co-occur with temporal linguistic expressions. While much has been written about time conceptualisation based on linguistic evidence, there has been comparatively little based on other modalities. Non-linguistic data has the capacity to help triangulate existing findings if found to be congruent with linguistic data or, conversely, could offer new insights into the way time is conceptualised. Gestures are an invaluable tool for the study of cognition due to their key role in human communication. Gesture is a universal phenomenon, largely unconscious and less monitored than speech and thus it can reveal information not present in language.
In this thesis, I investigate three features of co-speech gestures: axis and direction; language-gesture congruency; and extent or distance. The dataset comprises gestures that co-occur with temporal linguistic expressions which can be further divided into three groups: non-spatial language (e.g. earlier than); spatial, directional language (e.g. back in those days); and spatial, non-directional language (e.g. far in the future).
This research confirms that the lateral axis is frequently employed when gesturing about time, but it also suggests that spatial language usesthe sagittal axis more frequently that non-spatial language. Moreover, gestures that co-occur with spatially grounded temporal language tend to be congruent with the canonical direction of time, while this does not occur with non-spatially grounded temporal language. Finally, it seems that temporal distance expressed linguistically is usually analogous to spatial distance expressed through co-speech gestures.
The thesis also reflects on theoretical and methodological issues for gesture studies and some possible steps forward in the study of gesture.