Gestural Grammar: Investigating Gestures in Southern Italy (GestuGram)

Humans communicate using not only language, but the gestures that accompany it. Gestures are movements of the hands and body often paired with speech, and emerging research suggests that they are integrated with the grammar of language. Hence, the study of language is incomplete without the study of gesture. While gesture is universal, individual gestures vary across languages. For example, in Neapolitan, a particular gesture (i.e. mano a borsa; see below) can transform a statement (e.g. Mario has a car.) into a question (e.g. Does Mario have a car?). Thus, gestures are not simply ‘ornamental’, but can make grammatical contributions akin to the syntactic strategies of e.g. English (subject- auxiliary inversion). Drawing from the gesture-heavy languages of southern Italy, GestuGram aims to develop a grammar of gesture.

This project is funded by the Trinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Research Institute.