Colorado Research in Linguistics
Colorado Research in Linguistics -- ISSN 1937-7029

Volume 23-1, 2012

Pointing and Complaining: The Importance of Co-Present Parties

Nina Jagtiani

Abstract for paper presentation at the International Society for Gesture Studies (ISGS) 5


This paper uses Conversation Analysis to examine how pointing with the open hand at co-present parties is displayed and what function it can have during adversarial exchanges in a political talk show on German broadcast television (Anne Will, airing on ARD, 2011). The focus is on how open-handed pointing gets used, together with speech, to do the action of complaining between two parties about a co-present third party. It appears that through such pointing the complainant makes use of a visual modality to display and underline his/her negative assessment towards the topic under discussion and the other party.

It has generally been argued that in political news interviews the interviewer’s primary task is to encourage the interviewees to discuss their different positions on the topic for the overhearing audience (Heritage, 1985; Greatbatch, 1992; Clayman, 2010). In this context, complaining about co-present parties can occur. In making a complaint, the perception that there is a trouble is openly expressed (Drew & Holt, 1988).

In addition to the talk itself, gestures are crucial properties of interaction (Goodwin, 2000; Goodwin, 2007). As Schegloff (1984) argues, gestures are organized in reference to the talk. These semiotic devices, then, can be used for the construction of action in conversation (Kendon, 1985). This paper shows how open-handed pointing at a co-present party in an institutionalized setting not only functions as a basic means of reference but also as a further resource for the complainant to portray his/her evaluative stance on the topic and to emphasize his/her disaffiliation with the referent. Overall, very little work has been done on pointing at co-present parties, thus this study fills an important gap in the literature.

Nina Jagtiani is a PhD student in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Colorado, Boulder. She can be reached at Nina.Jagtiani@Colorado.EDU.

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Colorado Research in Linguistics is the working papers journal of the Department of Linguistics at the University of Colorado.


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