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The writing hand: Some interactional workings of writing gestures in Japanese conversation

Journal article
Authors Paul Cibulka
Published in Gesture
Volume 13
Issue 2
Pages 166–192
ISSN 1568-1475
Publication year 2013
Published at Department of Philosophy, Linguistics and Theory of Science
Pages 166–192
Language en
Keywords kuusho; gesture family; Japanese; writing
Subject categories Linguistics, Communication Studies, Japanology


This paper deals with the uses, in Japanese conversation, of a practice of tracing the shape of orthographic items in mid-air or on the palm using the index finger. Drawing on naturally occurring videotaped conversation, instances are analysed with regard to visibility, attention and co-gesture talk. It is proposed that the various usages are distributed along a continuum ranging from depiction to framing. A fine-grained sequential analysis of this practice in the context of repair reveals that it is employed as an integral component of a response that conforms the type of information made relevant in the enquiry. It can also constitute an interactional resource which recipients closely monitor and orient to, and which plays a central role in achieving mutual understanding.

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