Co-speech gesture and semantic fieldwork

A case study of aspectuals in Crow


  • Edwin Ko University of California, Berkeley
  • Schuyler Laparle



This paper proposes that co-speech gesture constitutes a type of semantic data that can be used when investigating particular semantic phenomena, to provide additional clues about the seman- tics of elicited utterances. Drawing from data that involve video recordings of an elicitation session exploring aspect in Crow, a Siouan language of Montana, USA, we employ discourse analysis and gesture analysis to examine the discursive practices and patterns (verbal and nonverbal) of the linguist and the consultant. The claim is that during semantic elicitation, consultants sometimes employ ges- tures as an embodied resource to concretize and convey abstract grammatical notions, such as aspect. As such, clues to the semantics of the consultant’s speech may also be found within the gestural com- ponent, and documenting and analyzing gestures that are co-produced with speech can be a useful addition to a semantic fieldworker’s toolkit.