Lyn Tieu, Philippe Schlenker & Emmanuel Chemla. 2018. “Linguistic inferences without words: Replicating the inferential typology with gestures.” Ms., Western Sydney University/Ecole Normale Supérieure. 

(An extension of this project has now been published as: Tieu, L., Schlenker, P. and Chemla, E. (2019). Linguistic inferences without words. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 116 (20) 9796-9801; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1821018116)

Full paper in pdf

Experimental materials:

Experiment - R script for data analysis

Experiment - Data (.csv)

Experiment - Design (.csv)

Abstract: Contemporary semantics has uncovered a sophisticated typology of linguistic inferences, characterized by their conversational status and their interaction with logical operators. We present experimental evidence that four of the main inference types (implicatures, presuppositions, supplements, homogeneity) can be replicated with pro- and post-speech gestures, which replace and follow spoken words, respectively. The results indicate that gestures, with their fine-grained iconic meanings, display the same type of semantic behavior as spoken words. Because the gestures were likely unfamiliar and being seen for the first time by our participants, the results also suggest that people productively divide new informational content among the components of the inferential typology, which may derive from general algorithms that apply to words and gestures alike.

Keywords: gesture, inference, implicature, presupposition, homogeneity, supplement, iconicity