Centrum för kognitiv semiotik (CCS)

Humanistiska och teologiska fakulteterna | Lunds universitet


Image Schemas, Mimetic Schemas and the Emergence of Gestures

Jordan Zlatev (CCS, Lund)

Mimetic schemas, unlike the popular cognitive linguistic notion of "image schemas", have been characterized in earlier work as explicitly representational, bodily sturctures arising from imitation of culture-specific practical actions (Zlatev 2005, 2007a, 2007b). We performed an analysis of the gestures of three Swedish and three Thai children at the age of 18, 22 and 26 months, in episodes of natural interaction with caregivers and siblings in order to analyze the hypothesis that their iconic gestures emerge as mimetic schemas. In accordance with this hypothesis, we predicted that the children's first iconic gestures would be (a) intermediately specific, (b) culture-typical, (c) falling in a set of recurrent types, (d) predominantly "enacted" from a first-person perspective (1pp) rather than "represented" from a third-person perspective (3pp), with (e) 3pp gestures being more dependent on direct imitation than 1pp gestures and (f) more often cooccuring with speech. All specific predictions but the last were confirmed, and differences were found between the children's iconic gestures on the one side, and their deictic and emblematic gestures on the other. Thus, the study both confirms earlier conjectures that mimetic schemas "ground" both gesture and speech, and implies the need to qualify these proposals, limiting the link between mimetic schemas and gestures to the iconic category.