Wundt and Bühler on Gestural Expression: From Psycho-Physical Mirroring to the Diacrisis

In Arnaud Dewalque, Charlotte Gauvry & Sébastien Richard (eds.), Philosophy of Language in the Brentano School: Reassessing the Brentanian Legacy. Palgrave-Macmillan. pp. 279-297 (2021)
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Abstract

This paper explores how Wundt’s and Bühler’s respective conceptions of gestural expression have implications for how each conceives of what, in broad terms, may be understood as a ‘grammar of gestures’: that is, the rules for the formation and performance of gestures with and without speech. Unlike previous scholarship that has looked at the relationship of Wundt and Bühler, the aim here will be to give particular attention to the relevance of their respective accounts for current philosophical and linguistic research on gesture. Building off of Bühler, we can offer an alternative to the psychologistic and solipsistic model of gestural expression that can be found in Wundt and that seems to be resurgent today in work by McNeil and others. Via Bühler’s notions of diacrisis and of the underlying functions that guide human communication, we propose an understanding of the relationship between gestures and speech that aims to render accurately both the highly contextualised and the highly structured conditions of their mutual employment.

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Basil Vassilicos
Mary Immaculate College

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