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Hearing Gesture
by Susan Goldin-Meadow
Harvard University Press, 2003
Cloth: 978-0-674-01072-7 | Paper: 978-0-674-01837-2
Library of Congress Classification P117.G65 2003
Dewey Decimal Classification 302.222


Many nonverbal behaviors--smiling, blushing, shrugging--reveal our emotions. One nonverbal behavior, gesturing, exposes our thoughts. This book explores how we move our hands when we talk, and what it means when we do so.

Susan Goldin-Meadow begins with an intriguing discovery: when explaining their answer to a task, children sometimes communicate different ideas with their hand gestures than with their spoken words. Moreover, children whose gestures do not match their speech are particularly likely to benefit from instruction in that task. Not only do gestures provide insight into the unspoken thoughts of children (one of Goldin-Meadow's central claims), but gestures reveal a child's readiness to learn, and even suggest which teaching strategies might be most beneficial.

In addition, Goldin-Meadow characterizes gesture when it fulfills the entire function of language (as in the case of Sign Languages of the Deaf), when it is reshaped to suit different cultures (American and Chinese), and even when it occurs in children who are blind from birth.

Focusing on what we can discover about speakers--adults and children alike--by watching their hands, this book discloses the active role that gesture plays in conversation and, more fundamentally, in thinking. In general, we are unaware of gesture, which occurs as an undercurrent alongside an acknowledged verbal exchange. In this book, Susan Goldin-Meadow makes clear why we must not ignore the background conversation.

Table of Contents:


I. A Window on the Mind
1. Gesture Is Everywhere
2. Not Just Hand Waving
3. Giving Our Thoughts Away
4. Who Is Ready to Learn?
5. Only the Hands Know for Sure

II. Communicating
6. Everyone Reads Gesture
7. Understanding Speech
8. In the Classroom
9. Learning by Gesturing to Others

III. Thinking
10. Gesturing in the Dark
11. Gesturing Helps
12. Gesturing Leads to Change

IV. When There Is Only Gesture
13. Gesture within a Community
14. Gesture by a Child
15. Gesture on the Spot

Conclusion: Talking and Thinking with Gesture


Reviews of this book:
Goldin-Meadow offers a naturalistic study of gesture in children and adults that will convince the reader that gesture (as she defines it) is an inseparable part of speech, communication, and thought. Indeed, after reading this study one wonders whether the written word alone can really do the job of communicating.
--M. W. York, Choice

Reviews of this book:
Hearing Gesture is an engaging (even suspenseful) read and, with its clear and informal style, should be largely accessible to non-experts...Readers will be impressed by [Goldin-Meadow's] extraordinary combination of thoughtful insight, experimental ingenuity and immense persistence and dedication to the search for knowledge...Hearing Gesture stands beside McNeill's Hand and Mind and Language and Gesture as a milestone in the study of gesture's relationship with language and thought. It may help to reshape the basic premises and methods of psychologists, linguists and other social scientists.
--Eve Sweetser, Nature

Susan Goldin-Meadow is the world's leading researcher into the cognitive meaning of gesture, and a beautiful writer as well. In this fascinating book, she shows us how gesture helps us think, remember, and learn, whether or not we're communicating anything to anyone else. Everybody gestures--she has told us why.
--Annette Karmiloff-Smith, co-author, Pathways to Language

Hearing Gesture is a treasure trove of observations and insights. A keen observer, witty writer, and remarkably creative experimenter, Goldin-Meadow focuses on our simplest and seemingly least consequential actions and draws from them a set of deep truths about the ways children and adults converse, think, and learn.
--Elizabeth Spelke, Harvard University
Nearby on shelf for Philology. Linguistics / Language. Linguistic theory. Comparative grammar: