[Colloquium] Multimodal encoding of motion events in Wao Terero

Talmy (1985, 2000) created a typology of motion events, dividing languages into those that are verb- or satellite-framing, wherein the former expresses the path of motion via the verb, and the latter expresses the path in a form external to the verb. Despite its utility for many languages, the division has had a number of challenges since its proposal (e.g. Croft et al. 2010). Even with Slobin’s (2004) addition of equipollent-framing to the possible types, there are still questions of how serializing languages should fit into this typology (either as a group or individually, e.g. Ameka & Essegbey 2013).

Gesture has been found to play multiple roles in communication (e.g. facilitating processing, deixis, interactional or pragmatic functions), generating just as many insights as to how gesture and spoken language might be related cognitively. While linguistic descriptions of motion and space are often accompanied by manual gesture, the relationship between the two channels within the realm of spatial cognition has yielded varying results (e.g. Kita & Özyürek 2003).

Wao Terero (waor 1240)—a synthetic language which exhibits typologically interesting phenomena such as multifunctional classifiers, ideophone + verb complex predicate constructions, and serial verb constructions—appears to make use of all the aforementioned frames in expressing motion events, thus resisting categorization as a single type. Because of the option to syntactically frame these motion events in various ways in the same language, Wao Terero provides an opportunity to investigate whether: (1) the use of manual gesture that accompanies these spoken linguistic structures tends to reflect the same packaging of motion events; (2) co-speech gestures complement the spoken description with otherwise unexpressed information; (3) or some combination of the two. This talk will thus examine instances in which manual gestures accompany spoken descriptions of motion events in natural Wao Terero discourse as well as guided stories.