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Meaning, Mind and Communication

Explorations in Cognitive Semiotics

Edited By Jordan Zlatev, Göran Sonesson and Piotr Konderak

This volume constitutes the first anthology of texts in cognitive semiotics – the new transdisciplinary study of meaning, mind and communication that combines concepts and methods from semiotics, cognitive science and linguistics – from a multitude of established and younger scholars. The chapters deal with the interaction between language and other semiotic resources, the role of consciousness and concepts, the nature of metaphor, the specificity of human evolution and development, the relation between cognitive semiotics and related fields, and other central topics. They are grouped in four sections: (i) Meta-theoretical perspectives, (ii) Semiotic development and evolution, (iii) Meaning across media, modes and modalities, (iv) Language, blends and metaphors.

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Chapter 13. From Mimesis to Meaning: A Systematics of Gestural Mimesis for Concrete and Abstract Referential Gestures (Cornelia Müller)


Cornelia Müller

Chapter 13

From Mimesis to Meaning: A Systematics of Gestural Mimesis for Concrete and Abstract Referential Gestures

1. Introduction

When the hands engage in gesturing, they are generally used as a mimetic medium. Basically all types of gestures involve a transformation from instrumental actions to non-instrumental, communicative ones. Such a transformation is based on gestural mimesis, and calls for non-trivial cognitive capacities, which makes this topic an important issue of cognitive semiotic reflections on (bodily) mimesis with regard to a phylogenetic and ontogenetic development of gestures and language (Andrén 2010; Donald 1991, 1998, 2012; Zlatev 2008a,b, 2014a,b). Miming actions motivates and grounds the meaning of referential, pragmatic and even pointing gestures and involves iconicity and indexicality as cognitive-semiotic processes. Gestural mimesis (in the sense of schematized enactments of bodily actions) extends Zlatev’s concept of mimetic schemas (Zlatev 2005, 2007b, 2014a) to an experience-based cognitive semiotics of gestural meaning. While Zlatev’s notion of mimetic schemas addresses the ontogenetic development of iconic gestures, the concept of gestural mimesis concerns the semiotic motivation of hand-gestures more generally.

Note, as an important aside, that Zlatev’s use of the term iconic gestures is not equivalent with the McNeillian (McNeill 1992) notion of iconic gestures. The latter is quite misleading, since it suggests that only gestures with a concrete referent are iconic, whereas metaphoric gestures, e.g., gestures referring to abstract actions and entities, are not. Furthermore, it implies that pragmatic...

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