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Te Tird Stage

Gestures in Argument
Will Penman
Dec 15, 2013
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Introduction
In this essay I posit that any mode of communication can undergo
three stages of interpretation. In the frst stage, the mode is seen in ways in
which it is redundant relative to the dominant mode usually speech. In
the second stage, the mode is seen in ways in which it is informationally
expressive relative to speech. In the third stage, the mode is seen in ways in
which it is argumentatively expressive relative to speech. To some extent,
progressing from one stage to another involves a shif in what communica-
tion tasks are examined, and may also refect a cultural shif of that mode
toward centrality. For the last 30 years, research on gesture has increasingly
shifed from the frst stage to the second stage of interpretation. I argue that
we can see gesture in the third stage, as argumentatively expressive.
First, I describe my data, an approximately 3-minute video clip of a
woman giving her friends a tour of an urban farm at which she is a volun-
teer. I describe the content and form of the speech channel of her commu-
nication, connecting it to epideictic argument. Ten, I illustrate my theory
of three stages of modal interpretation by way of the mode of images, and
focus on the history of gesture research as it has progressed from the frst
stage to the second stage. Next, I analyze the farm tour for gestures that are
imagistic yet not obviously linked to specifc words, fnding that Quinn, the
woman giving the tour, uses the gesture space to denote options for farm-
ing methods that are not very present in her speech channel. I suggest that
this gestural work serves the function of transforming facts into epideicti-
cally sharing (Condit) with the audience. Tis has implications for argu-
ment theory in the entextualization and translation of arguments, and for
rhetorical theory in new problems of intercultural communications.
Touring an urban farm
Quinn is a key volunteer at an urban farm in Pittsburgh, which
began as a ministry of her church about four years ago. On this day, Quinn
has invited some of her friends from a school-based Christian organization
to work at the farm. At the end of the morning, she gives a formal tour of
the farm and its history. I have been volunteering at the farm recently as
part of an extended project on multmodality and cross-cultural commu-
nication (most of the church volunteers are middle-class and white; most
of the people in the neighborhood where the farm is are poor and African
American). I videotaped the tour on my phone with Quinns permission.
She knows the six people on the tour fairly well, and I knew them well
enough that they werent uncomfortable with my videotaping. Out of the
roughly half hour tour, I have selected a roughly 3-minute excerpt from the
middle of the tour to analyze.
Analyzing mulitmodal argumentation strategies in a farm tour
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comes about for three reasons. First, tours are the primary public-facing
interaction that the farm currently has. Te leader of the farm ofen submit
grants, but those are technical, private, written and constrained to the ap-
plication format of the particular grant. Tours at the farm are general, pub-
lic, embodied and free-form, as well as locationally rooted. Second, tours
as a practice generally and Quinns tours specifcally are somewhat regular-
ized and rehearsed. Tis lends more weight to analysis, because we can take
the features that have settled into the tour as more strategic. Finally, tours
as epideixis allows me to connect gesture to argument in the same way the
epideixis is connected to argument.
Within the tour, I selected this excerpt for three reasons. First, on
a research level, this is the part of the tour in which Quinn is least self-
conscious of my video recording. Second, on an argumentative level, this is
the part of the tour with the most explicit claims: controlling water is one
of the really important things we can do; natural fertilizers are something
really important that we feel very strongly about. Tird, I thought it might
be gesturally interesting because Quinn talks about both concrete topics
like the visible orchard and more abstract topics like crop rotation. It is
naturally bounded on both sides by walking to another part of the farm.
What does the speech channel of Quinns communication reveal?
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In what ways is it argumentative? If, following Aristotle, we take rhetoric
to be the study of the available means of persuasion in any given situation,
then the feld of argument can be seen as a subset of rhetoric, as a kind of
persuasion that is averse to force and desirous of good reasons (Booth).
Tus, I frst locate Quinns speech within the broad gates of rhetoric as
epideixis, then explain why its productive to see epideixis (and Quinns
speech) as argumentative.
Epideixis as a category of rhetoric has been notoriously murky (Ja-
sinski). Ancient scholars considered epideixis to position the audience as
onlookers, similar to a TV programs mute audience (Oravec, McKenzie).
Te goal was performative rather than revelatory, exhibiting the speakers
skill, rather than changing peoples minds. Tus, when Aristotle says, In
ceremonial speeches you will develop your case mainly by arguing that
what has been done is, e.g., noble and useful (Rhetoric III.17), he uses ar-
gue in a looser sense than to mean inducing people who are for something
to be against it, and vice versa. Tis looser sense has prevailed for modern
writers, who sense that epideictic communication does work, whether its
argumentative or not. Tus, they defne epideictic without reference to
argument, by family resemblance
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(Wittgenstein) rather than as a binary:
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Speech channel is from the perspective of the speakers senses, and complements the
gestural channel. We could also take it from the perspective of the audience, where
Quinns communication would be received through listening and sight, in the aural and
visual channels.
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One consequence of defnition by family resemblance is that it demands adverbs of
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for the audience, epideixis comes in the combination of understanding,
entertainment, and sharing; for the rhetor, in terms of defnition, display,
and shaping (Condit). In this understanding, Quinns tour is fairly epideic-
tic. For the farm volunteers, the morning has been spent in apprentice-like
peripheral participation, doing small, tiring tasks like shoveling mulch.
One morning of work doesnt require as much understanding as, say, the
death of a loved one, but it does open space for the volunteers to hear: just
what have they just been doing? Similarly, the farm volunteers are familiar
with tours as a form of address, which ofen have bad puns and theatrical
gestures in short, tours are entertaining, as is Quinns. Te third criteria is
that the audience be sharing, rather than hearing partisanship. Quinns use
of nonspecifc pronouns and oblique references to alternative philosophies
emphasizes commonality and diminishes confrontation (strategies that
Condit fnds in her case study as well).
But even if Quinns tour is very epideictic, there remains the ques-
tion of epideixis relationship to argument. Objections to its status as argu-
ment stem from the fact that epideixis involves no clear disagreement and
no clear response requested. Indeed, this is the case with Quinns tour: the
volunteers in this part of the tour listen politely, ask no questions, make no
comments to her, and have no visible evaluation or action. Lack of dis-
agreement in epideixis is expressed by the phrase preaching to the choir,
which idiomatically refers to persuasion aimed at people who dont need
persuasion. Yet literally it contrasts with an appropriate kind of preach-
ing, which is a typical epideictic setting (Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca,
Edwards, Kennedy). So we see scholarly and popular hesitation in charac-
terizing epideixis. Cham Perelman and Lucie Olbrechts-Tyteca take up the
line of thinking that epideixis should be considered argumentative on the
basis that epideixis intervenes to make sure that intellectual decisions dont
stall or wither on their way to becoming action. Tere is argumentation
from within agreement, too. Te argumentation in epid[e]ictic discourse
sets out to increase the intensity of adherence to certain values, which
might not be contested when considered on their own but may neverthe-
less not prevail against other values that might come into confict with
them (51). In Te Realm of Rhetoric, Perelman goes further, saying that all
practical philosophy arises from the epideictic genre because agreement
is not enough to merit action (20). Condit does point to situations, such as
childrens speeches in memorial events, where the rhetor is unlikely to have
the kind of long-term action in mind that Perelman talks about. However,
in the case of the tour, Quinn is an established community member who
frequently encourages people to volunteer, and we can read the implicit
goal of her discourse to encourage potential volunteers to support the
farm, including through their time.
degree, sparking unusual formulations like very epideictic or not a highly epideictic
speech. I have not avoided these.
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In analyzing Quinns speech channel, we see that she covers four
topics, each structured so as to end by praising one aspect of the topic. A
transcript is provided in Figure 1. First, she describes the orchard and the
raised bed that helps control water fow. Quinn concludes this topic by
saying, We want to control water as much as possible. Tats one of the
really important things that we can do here. Tis summary reinforces the
idea that her speech has more than an informational purpose; it is increas-
ing adherence of values to controlling water (and erosion, fash fooding,
and even concern for the poor with it).
Quinns second topic is the high tunnel. Te high tunnel, she sug-
gests, is valuable for promoting growth in plants. Again, she ends the topic
by summarizing and extending into laudatory language: helping tomatoes
grow is really great.
Quinn then makes a frm case for crop rotation as a way to avoid
the need for artifcial fertilizers. Crop rotation is something that promotes
good soil management and soil health, because it doesnt deplete nutri-
ents from the soil. If nutrients are depleted, then petrochemicals have to
be used. Quinn reiterates the farms stance: And so we dont use artifcal
fertilizers up here. Tose expecting a Toulminian claim-grounds-warrant
will be disappointed that there is no warrant for not using petrochemicals
Tis is the orchard, which I dont actually count as one of
our expansion areas. Um, but I think that it went in the
frst year that we were here. Um, a lot of fruit trees and so
forth down there. I dont know a lot about trees, I sort of
stay out of the tree business. Um, but again, we have an-
other ditch down there, um, that some lovely highschool-
ers dug for us. Um, and then we put a raised bed in front
of that and that keeps it so the water slowly percolates
through the orchard, instead of running of down this
hill and down into the street. We want to control water
as much as possible. Tats one of the really important
things that we can do here.
And you guys were already down, um, in what is our sec-
ond expansion garden down with the high tunnel. Again,
more raised beds, very similar to the frst garden, um,
the high tunnel being sort of the distinguishing difer-
ence. Um, the high tunnel is great, we actually keep that
up all year, even though we dont really need it in the, in
the summer, uh, for warmth or anything like that, but we
grow tomatoes in it. Tomatoes! Apparently dont like to
get their leaves wet. Im like, you are a high maintenance
plant! Oh my gosh. But, its really great that we can - be-
cause we can keep the water of the leaves by growing in
that tunnel, and just water at the roots where they really
want to be watered.
Um, we do one of the other things we do because of
permaculture methods, we do crop rotation. So things we
grow in the bottom garden last year, well be growing in
the top garden this year. Because each plant takes difer-
ent nutrients from the soil, or puts diferent nutrients into
the soil, if theyre nitrogen-fxing, for example. Um, and
so we wanna, we wanna keep that rotation going, because
if you plant the same crop year afer year afer year, you
deplete those nutrients from, from the soil. And then you
start having to do things, you know in - in conventional
farming where okay, you only grow corn on this feld
for ten years. Whatever corn is taking out of the soil, its
all gone. Its gone. And so you start dumping in more fer-
tilizer and petrochemicals because you have to put those
nutrients back in somehow. Whereas if you practice crop
rotation, if you practice good soil management and soil
health, you wouldnt have to use that. And so we dont use
artifcial fertilizers up here.
We do use, um, natural fertilizers. So we have rabbit ma-
nure, we have chicken manure, we have the compost. Um,
every year I, I have, I have worms. Um, I have worms
in my house, and um, so I bring about fve gallons of
worm manure up here. Which is a gre a really fabulous
fertilizer. Um, and so we do fertilize, but we use natural
fertilizers instead of petrochemicals. So, thats something
really important that we feel very strongly about.
Figure 1. Transcript of Quinns tour. Punctuation and paragraphing indicate rough semantic divsion.
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to replace nutrients. Quinn does express distaste for depleting nutrients,
evident in her tone in repeating, Whatever corn is taking out of the soil,
its all gone. Its gone. But petrochemicals restore a balance, and there is
no reason given for their harm. On a formal level, this appears to beg the
question. I will return to this later when discussing gestures role.
Finally, Quinn discusses natural fertilizers. I have separated it as a
new topic based on its initial contrast with the previous topic (we dont
use artifcial vs. we do use natural) and its concluding summary (we do
fertilize), but her link back to petrochemicals (we use natural fertilizers
instead of petrochemicals) could be seen as a broader conclusion to the
topic above. Quinns discussion of natural fertilizers takes the form of a list,
with a digression to dissociate her pun on having worms from the intesti-
nal kind. She concludes with her strongest afrmation of values yet, and so
we do fertilize, but we use natural fertilizers instead of petrochemicals. So,
thats something really important that we feel very strongly about.
Moving into a discussion of the gestural channel, what is signifcant
about Quinns argument is the degree to which she uses facts epideictically.
In what ways does the presentation of facts create a sense of sharing for
the audience?
Three stages of modal interpretation
In setting out a social semiotic approach to multimodality, Carey
Jewitt and Gunther Kress write, Rather than taking talk and writing as the
starting point, a multimodal approach to learning starts from a theoreti-
cal position that treats all modes as equally signifcant for meaning and
communication, potentially so at least (Jewitt and Kress 2). More recently,
Kress has adopted the metaphor of centrality to describe how in practice
that potential becomes distributed (Kress 79). Te more central a mode is
for a group of people, the longer its reach is, or what meanings it can be
used for. I formalize this into a three-stage measure of centrality based on
rhetorical potential. In the periphery, with very low reach, are modes that
are interpreted in ways in which they are redundant relative to speech. In
the middle zone, with much greater reach, are modes that are interpreted
in ways in which they are informationally expressive. In the center are
modes in which even argumentation can happen. By stage, I mean to im-
ply that academic interpretation functions as an intermediary to the world,
and that whether through shifs in prevailing discourse, or objects of analy-
sis, or chaning culture and time themselves, our impression of a mode can
be heightened. Tis generalized three-stage model of modal interpretation
is at this point merely a working hypothesis that needs greater refnement.
Before describing existing research on gestures from within this
three-stage framework, I illustrate the model by briefy considering the
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history of images as a mode broadly. Interpretation in the frst stage em-
phasizes the modes ornamentation and redundancy. Images could be seen
as ornamental or redundant to speech in contexts such as early Christian
stained glass. Religious art scholar Roger Homan quotes an early French
theologian as saying that the function of painted walls and windows was
to show to simple folks who do not know the scriptures what they ought
to believe (Homan). Tis formulation casts stained glass as having just
the same meaning as a small section of speech. On a more modern level,
we can see the second stage in J. Anthony Blair, as part of a special edition
of Argumentation and Advocacy. For Blair, images have the opportunity to
provide informational content, but dont measure up to the status of argu-
ment very well:
Gericaults Te Raf of the Medusa (1818-19) expresses the
despair and misery of being adrif at sea afer a shipwreck,
and shows us the ffeen survivors of the 150 who had clung
to the raf twelve days before when the Medusa foundered;
but it gives no reasons for drawing any conclusions, for
example about a need for lifeboats, safer vessels, or less risk-
taking in trans-oceanic trade, nor is it a justifcation of the
cannibalism that allegedly took place on the raf. (27-8)
Gericaults painting communicates despair and misery, and number of peo-
ple, but does not provide a clear information and a conclusion. Tis con-
cern over the separation of premises and conclusions in images is essential-
ly the same as Gross (Gross), and characterizes the second stage of modal
interpretation. Birdsell and Groarke argue from within the third stage,
recently idenitifying fve ways that images function as a part of arguments:
as fags, demonstrations, metaphors, symbols and archetypes (Birdsell and
Groarke). Tese functions have clear associations with more traditional
language on argumentation, e.g. fags function to increase presence, in
Perelmans sense.
I suggest that the history of the study of gestures has largely fol-
lowed the same trajectory, beginning in the frst stage of interpretation,
recently moving into the second stage, and now tentatively open to inter-
pretation in the third stage, where the mode is seen as having argumenta-
tive expressiveness.
In Ancient Greece and early Ancient Rome, gestures were not
explictly discussed, but were mentioned only under delivery. In Instititio
Oratia, however, Quintilian discusses gesture insofar as it obeys the im-
pulse of the mind, participating in the same communicative act as the the
mind expresses in words (Institutio Oratia XI.3.65). Gestures role within
this is to display emotion with frmness and grace. Each part of the body
has a role to play: the head, eyes, complexion, eyebrows, nostrils, neck,
throat, shoulders, arms, hands, feet, and clothes. Quintilian describes each
gesture, along with its common emotional connotation and further in-
structions for proper implementation. So, for instance, he describe how to
point with the index fnger:
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When three fngers are doubled under the thumb, the fnger,
which Cicero says Crassus used to such efect, is extended. It
is used in denunciation and in indication (whence its name
of index fnger), while if it be slightly dropped afer the hand
has been raised toward the shoulder, it signifes afrmation,
and if pointed as it were downwards toward the ground, it
expresses insistence. It is sometimes also used to indicate
number. (XI.3.92-3)
Many of these functions of pointing are still recognizable to us today.
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In
terms of their role in oratory, then, Quintilian saw gestures as a natural (yet
trainable), necessary part of argumentation. Imitating the words them-
selves was undignifed, I would not allow him to use his hands to imitate
attitudes or to illustrate anything he may chance to say (XI.3.89). But ges-
ture overall was assigned the same ground that was conveyed in the speech
channel, especially as conveyed in tone of voice.
Research on gesture through the 19th century largely follows Quin-
tilian, emphasizing the natural origin and universal language of gestures
(Bulwer, Austin, see Kendon for a more detailed history of gesture publica-
tions). From a rhetorical perspective, Ben McCorkle points to the infuence
of technology on conceptions of the canon of delivery, especially ways in
which these quasi-scientifc theories of gesture were an implicit response
to the print revolution (McCorkle 155). For my purposes, it is enough
to emphasize that gesture was conceived of primarily in the frst stage of
modal interpretation, as a bonus or hidden source of what was already be-
ing conveyed orally in vocal delivery.
In todays research, largely driven by the increasing availability of
video recording devices, gestures have come to be seen as providing infor-
mation that may or may not be refected orally. Gestures exhibit images
that cannot always be expressed in speech, as well as images the speaker
thinks are concealed (McNeill 11). Tree authoritative monographs stand
out in this emerging feld of gesture studies (supported through the Inter-
national Society for Gesture Studies, the journal GESTURE, a book series
published by John Benjamins, and the McNeill Gesture Lab at University of
Chicago): David McNeills Hand and Mind, Susan Goldin-Meadows Hear-
ing Gestures, and Adam Kendons Gesture. McNeills results emerge from a
set of laboratory tasks in which participants watch a wordless cartoon, then
describe it to a friend. (For these researchers, gesture rarely focuses on the
formal, rehearsed situations that Quintilian describes). For the most part,
gestures and speech are coexpressive, but in some cases gestures provide
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For some scholars, the quantity of gestures that Quintilian refers to implies that a whole
system of gestures developed in between Cicero and Quintilian (Aldrete). But as Jon
Hall points out, We should resist the temptation to view Quintilians discussion of hand
gestures as part of a complex and artifcial system largely alien to the experience of most
Romans. As we have seen, the boundaries between everyday and oratorical gesture were
highly permeable (Hall 152). In other words, what appears complex may simply be our
cultural removal, not a more elaborate system than we ourselves have.
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more or diferent information than the speech channel does. For example,
one participant in the cartoon description task says that the character
tries climbing up the rain barrel. She gestures during the word climbing,
tucking her thumb into her palm as her hand fexed upward (McNeill 112).
Te word climbing supplies information about how the character moved
that the speakers hand blob did not. But McNeill notes that by having her
thumb tucked in, she conveyed the interiority of climbing up inside the
rain-pipe that her speech did not. Goldin-Meadow notes that this mixed
communication is particularly in play if an idea is difcult to formulate. In
classroom settings, students use gesture to express what the child knows
but cannot say (Goldin-Meadow 104). And as Scherr sees, for students
learning physics, Te transcript of her verbalizations, in this case, is
insufcient for us to understand her idea; in order to understand what the
student is saying we need to see her gestures (Scherr 1).
Gestures thus go beyond redundancy with the speech channel to
a second stage of modal prominence: information expressiveness. Tis
approach, particularly in following McNeills methodology for categoriz-
ing gestures (described below), has been taken up by rhetoric scholars in
the last several years, and has expanded the ways in which we see gestures
providing information. Beverly Sauer sees that coal miners use gestural
perspective either as characters in their own narrative or as analytic by-
standers to represent aspects of risk that do not get easily entextualized in
text. Christina Haas and Stephen Witte analyze the revision process of an
engineering document. Tey fnd that engineers use gestures as pre-texts,
representing not the version displayed on the screen, but the version that
should be displayed. Tus, gestures, as much as words, appear to function
as representational tools, the use of which enable the city employees to
move almost seamlessly from embodied knowledge of antecedent states to
embodied knowledge of future states (444).
Similarly, rhetorical research has worked to expand McNeills cat-
egorization of signifcant gestures to include the self-touches of a masseuse
talking (Streit) and the adaptor movmeents and writing activities associ-
ated with a collaborative planning sessions, such as fdgeting with pen and
paper, eating, drinking, and even writing itself as a kind of gesture (Wolfe).
Te second stage of modal interpretation is in some ways artif-
cially separated from the third. As Fahnestock has argued in the context
of scientifc discourse, content is style is argumentative (Fahnestock),
implying that if gestures add information to the speech channel during an
argument, then they must be argumentative. Tis is the stance Sara New-
man takes in describing gestural enthymeme. She follows Cara Finnegans
application of the enthymeme to the visual realm, where Finnegan sees
photographic images as argumentative because they facilitate readers
enthymematically flling in the major premise, if it looks like a photograph,
then its content is unmanipulated and natural , supporting the conclusion
that this photograph depicts reality (Finnegan). Similarly, Newman argues
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that medical texts which showed frames of movement made a gestural en-
thymeme, No words are needed to make the argument about how a long
jump is exectued (290, see Figure 2 below).
Tis is a valuable frst step toward interpreting gestures in the third
stage. Newmans approach, however, only applies to self-referential ges-
tures, gestures about how gestures work, which seem much less common
than photographs that depends on their naturalness for acceptance.
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Te
general theoretical position that content addition functions argumenta-
tively is, to me, forced. In my data, for instance, toward the end of the farm
tour excerpt, Quinn says, So I bring about 5 gallons of worm manure to
the farm. She gestures during the word bring: her fngers are slightly
bent, with her palms facing the center of the gesture space, and her hands
about chest high, far apart from each other. It is a gesture that represents
holding something. Ten, during the word about, she gestures again:
fngers and palms in the same confguration, but hands rotated, so that her
right hand is on top and her lef hand is on bottom. Tis gesture also rep-
resents holding something, but it is more specifc than her words convey:
we see that the 5 gallons is carried in a container that needs to be held with
Figure 2. Long jump (tienne-Jules Marey, 1886), a gestural enthymeme according to
Newman. Available on Wikipedia (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Weitsprung_
mit_Anlauf_1886.jpg)
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In general terms. Tis paper makes signifcant use of sequential screenshots.
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one hand on the top and one hand on the bottom maybe a large bucket.
Helpful for understanding her meaning, yes, and interesting. But I have
trouble seeing how that informationally expressive gesture is also argumen-
tatively expressive. I seek to strengthen Newmans conclusion by expanding
the range of situations in which we can interpret gestures in the third stage.
Gestural argument
In Hand and Mind, McNeill distinguishes fve kinds of gestures that
occur in everyday discourse: beats, deictics, iconics, metaphors, and em-
blems. (Tese are imagistic; lef out are more linguistic uses of gesture, such
as pantomiming and sign languages.) Figure 5, below, shows properties
of each type, and in Figures 6-10 an example of each from the farm tour is
shown.
cultural
boundedness
semantic referent
frequency on
farm tour (of
94 gestures)
beat
very low
discourse high, 39%
deictic location, thing, concept low, 7%
iconic
low
concept medium, 27%
metaphoric concept medium, 21%
emblem high concept, attitude low, 4%
Figure 5. Table of common gesture types
Beats and deictics have very low cultural boundedness because, other
than ways of pointing and marking signifcance that are ofensive to some
cultures, they can be understood as emphasizers and pointers across cul-
tures. Beat gestures emphasize the discourse, and occur frequently (espe-
cially in political discourse). Deictic gestures point to locations, things, or
concepts (i.e. abstract things). Iconics and metaphorics have low cultural
boundedness because they portray aspects of a concept for anyone who
understands the concept, the similarity should be easy to see. Exceptions
are with metaphorics for cultures that use diferent metaphors. McNeill
uses metaphor here in line with Lakof and Johnsons sense of conceptual
metaphors, which are pre-linguistic and in this case pre-gestural meta-
phors that emerge in a variety of linguistic (and gestural) expressions. For
instance, we use the conceptual metaphor argument is war when we talk
about winning an argument, shooting down an argument, attacking
an argument, receiving criticism that is right on target, etc. (Lakof and
Johnson, 5). For cultures with diferent conceptual metaphors (e.g. argu-
ment is dance), diferent linguistic and gestural expressions would be
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Figure 8. Deictic gesture - pointing to the top garden
Figure 9. Iconic gesture - water spreading out to the roots, from the perspective of the water
(so things that we grow in the bottom gar-)
-den last year, well be growing in the top garden this year
Figure 11. Emblem gesture - thanking the high-schoolers
(that some lovely)
high schoolers dug
(for us)
(because we can keep the water of the leaves,)
and just water at the roots,
(where they really want to be watered)
Figure 7. Beat gesture - emphasizing the word actually
(the high tunnel is great)
we actually keep
(that up all year)
Figure 10. Metaphoric gesture - using the conceptual metaphor options are objects, where farming options are being presented
(and then you start having to do)
things, you know in
(in conventional farming where okay, you only grow corn on this feld for ten years)
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found that might be incomprehensible to cultural outsiders (McNeill 151).
Both iconic and metaphor gestures refer to concepts, and are only diferen-
tiable in degree of abstraction, such that in Wolfes study, these categories
were collapsed (Wolfe). Finally, emblems are culturally specifc gestures
that can ofen substitute for speech, such as waving to mean hello, or us-
ing the middle fnger. Tese can vary so much by populating that mapping
studies have been undertaken to see what gestures take on what meanings
where, e.g. in Europe (Morris, Collett, Marsh and OShaughnessy).
McNeill recommends coding each gesture for its palm/fnger
orientation, location in the gesture space, motion, direction, and meaning,
as well as what word(s) it was on. (Beats dont require that a meaning be
coded; iconics and metaphorics demand an additional category of per-
spective.) Te stroke of the gesture is the important part to code; op-
tional preparation, holding, and retraction stages are also possible to code.
I have used a free linguistics sofware program called ELAN to code. Te
process of fnding ELAN, importing video, and understanding enough of
the system to begin working took about one full day. Coding this 3-minute
section took about two full days, even with minimal coding toward the
end. However, ELAN gives enormous fexibility, and was the only pro-
Figure 12. ELAN workspace for gesture coding. Video (upper lef), volume and playback rate control (upper right), coding categories
(bottom).
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gram I found that could reliably play video at very slow speeds. Te por-
tion in Figure 12 highlighted in blue at the bottom is an example of one
coded gesture. Moving from the top coding category, the gesture comes at
timestamp 1:14 and lasts less than one second. It comes afer the phrase
tomatoes! and is part of the phrase, apparently dont like to get their
leaves wet, specifcally on the words get their. Te gesture has no notice-
able preparation, but is held for several words, before being retracted. My
shorthand code to describe this gesture is: 2BH, B-spread, PTB, thighs,
2SM hands rotate to PTF, which means that it uses both hands, where the
fngers are slightly cupped and the thumb is separated from the fngers
(like the American sign language letter B), palms are toward the bot-
tom at Quinns thighs, both hands rotate so that the palms face forward. I
have coded this gesture as an emblem (a highly culturally specifc gesture)
meaning incredulity, used by Quinn lightheartedly compared to frustrated
teenage girls talking to an authority fgure, which is what I most closely
associate the gesture with. Although coding data is not common for some
kinds of rhetorical studies, I have found McNeills taxonomy to bring a
helpful degree of comparison to other studies, and an implied level of rep-
licability. His coding categories were immensely helpful in describing the
gestures the words.
McNeill claims that gestures are a signifcant part of extemporane-
ous speech. My data concurs: in 66 phrases spanning 521 words, Quinn
made 94 gestures, more than a 1:1 ratio. Tis is on the upper end of a nor-
mal range (McNeill 94).
I now move from broad statistical overview to narrow in on a ges-
ture that I think works argumentatively. Tis gesture might be colloquially
referred to as the hands weighing or being a set of scales. More techni-
cally, both hands are palm up, waist-to-chest high, fngers in a B-spread.
Te hands move opposite directions, one going up and the other going
down, and then reversing. Quinn uses this gesture fve times in these 3
minutes of the farm tour. Each time the motion is the same, but there are
two distinct meanings. Te frst time, she uses it when saying the [high
tunnel being sort of the] distinguishing diference (brackets here indicate
the gesture stroke). In this situation, the lef and right sides indicate op-
tions, and the hands tilting toward each side indicates the possibility of that
option being chosen. Tus, this gesture shows the conceptual metaphor
options are objects. As objects, they have mass and can be weighed to
see which is the most signifcant. By moving the hands back and forth, it
shows that the best/heaviest object is uncertain, and that both are possibly
equal. Tis gesture therefore is an image which refects the same mean-
ing that the word sort of refects. In my gestural idiolect, this is the most
common meaning for the weighing gesture. Quinn uses the weighing
gesture to mean indecision again, when she says, Again, more raised beds,
[ver]y similar to the frst garden.
But using the weighing gesture to mean indecision only accounts
14
for two of the fve times that Quinn uses it. In the other cases, she uses it in
a context that appears nearly opposite:
(1) because we can keep the water of the leaves by growing in
that tunnel, and just water at the roots where they reall[y
want] to be watered.
(2) Because each plant [takes dif]ferent nutrients from the soil,
or puts diferent nutrients into the soil if theyre nitrogen-
fxing, for example
(3) Um, and so [we do] fertilize, but we use natural fertilizers
instead of petrochemicals.
In (1), Quinn uses the gesture in the process of saying really want. In (2),
she uses it before saying diferent. And in (3), she uses it the process of
contrasting fertilizing with not using petrochemicals. In other words, this
gesture is used in places where it is associated with a strong decision, rather
than lack of decision or ambivalence. By examining these three cases more
closely, we can see how this gesture functions in Quinns argument, and
how its closely tied to epideixis.
Tese are best interpreted by seeing them as gestures that maintain
some element of decision making. But there is no human decision-maker
in (1), only tomatoes this gesture is actually from the perspective of the
tomato plant. Te tomato plant is retroactively and hypothetically consid-
ering whether it wants to be watered at the roots or not. In terms of reality
of focus, then, the gesture and the speech channel are at diferent levels.
Te speech channel does anthropomorphize the tomato through the word
want. But the gesture channel goes further, imagining that the audi-
ence can be active participants in the creation of nature: should tomatoes
fourish when watered only at the roots? In terms of the perspective of the
tomato, Sauer would condition us to expect a strategic use of nature, yet
Quinn rarely uses gestures character-oriented gestures where the character
is part of nature. It seems as though her goal is to go beyond giving infor-
mation, to enticing the audience to participate in a fantastic scenario. Tis
connects Quinns tour as epideixis to the literary, as it has been historically
conceived (Walker).
In (2), our interpretation is pushed, because the contrast seems so
slight what does it matter if there are diferent nutrients from each plant?
Figure 13. Instance (1) of the alternative weighing gesture
15
On one level, it matters insofar as having diferent nutrients from each
plant is what grounds the practice of crop rotation. But that emphasizes the
truthfulness of the statement (and in fact, using the technical term nitro-
gen-fxing does build ethos here). Clearly reading the gesture as indicating
doubt or uncertainty is untenable in this case as well. In (1), there was a
clear character on which to displace the decision. Here, however, the deci-
sion to take out or put in diferent nutrients is not in any one type of plant,
but in plants in general. Tis higher level of abstraction makes the idea of
the perspective of the gesture less relevant, since there is no clear agent.
Rather, the audience is being drawn in to wonder at alternative possibilities,
not doubt or debate them.
Quinns fnal use of the weighing gesture comes near the end of
this part of the tour. She afrms that they do fertilize, using the weigh-
ing gesture on do. Here there is a clear character on which to see the
decision-process: the farm volunteers themselves, who have considered the
possibilities for fertilization and decided to use natural fertilizers instead
of petrochemicals. Te audience, in order to understand the gesture, must
take the perspective of Quinn and the other volunteers (at least, one ver-
sion of them, in which the conclusion was not foregone). In this case we
come close to seeing the gesture as a concession, that there are reasonable
options. While this is fair, Quinns speech channel also conveys a conces-
sory attitude through her use of you to indicate people who would take
both options, so this is not a unique function of her gesture. What does
appear to be unique in all of these cases, isolated from the speech channel
completely, including tone of voice, is Quinns enactment of the interest the
audience should feel at all of these details.
One of the characterizing features of epideixis is a the rhetor shap-
ing and the audience sharing. Quinns speech channel sticks to facts and
enthusiastic evaluations; for an enactment of the interest that the audience
should have, we must look to her gestures. Tis is a crucial part of her ar-
gument that is invisible in just the speech channel.
Conclusion
In this essay, I have posited a three-stage formalized model of the
centrality of modes of communication, such as images, writing, and
gestures. In the frst stage, the mode is interpreted as not central; in the
second stage, the mode is interpreted as more central; in the third stage,
the mode is interpreted as so central that arguments can be made with
it. I have suggested that research on gesture has been pushing toward the
third stage, and have analyzed one example in which a gesture functions
to argue epideictically by enacting interest in small factual details. Tis
thesis has implications for rhetorical study broadly and argument theory
16
more specifcally, asking that we reassess our expectations for the location
of argument, and investigate situations in which gesture might be used in
subtle, yet-unnoticed ways. It also encourages further questions regard-
ing argumentation across cultures, in which subtle gestures that might be
easily understood from one context might be foreign and ignored (or taken
ofense to) in another context.
17
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