Boundary expression in verbs and gesture: Differences between l1 and l2 speakers

V. A. Denisova, A. Cienki, O. K. Iriskhanova

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The notion of event boundaries is closely connected with the category of aspect. Aspectual forms show different views of “internal temporal consistu-ency of a situation” (Comrie 1976:3) and, consequently, construals of events in different ways. Recently scholars have started looking into the core of the aspectual distinction through multimodality, considering hand gestures. On the basis of Russian and French oral narratives produced by native speakers, we conducted a study, testing our hypothesis about the existence of direct correlation between the expression of boundaries in verbs and in gestures. Means of boundary expression regarded for Russian on the verbal level were perfective (soveršennyj vid) and imperfective (nesoveršennyj vid) verbs, and for French—passé composé and imparfait. On the kinesthetic level we distinguished between bounded gestures (i.e., involving a pulse of movement) and unbounded gestures (i.e., smooth by nature). While for French L1 we found a direct correlation between gesture boundary schemas and aspectual forms, the results for Russian L1 did not support our hypothesis. With a view to these differences between the two languages, we studied the boundedness correlation in oral narratives produced by Russians speaking French as L2 (CEFR levels B2-C1). The comparison between L1 and L2 narratives revealed a certain change of gestural patterns: the Russian speakers of French L2 used almost the same number of unbounded and bounded gestures with the perfective verb forms and more unbounded gestures with the imperfective forms, thus moving closer towards French L1 speakers' verb-gesture patterns. The use of gestures can be accounted for by a series of noise factors related to language peculiarities, the cognitive mechanism of profiling and challenges of speaking in L2.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationComputational Linguistics and Intellectual Technologies
Subtitle of host publicationPapers from the Annual International Conference “Dialogue” (2018)
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018

Publication series

NameKomp'juternaja Lingvistika i Intellektual'nye Tehnologii
ISSN (Print)2221-7932


1 This research is carried out at the Centre for Socio­Cognitive Discourse Studies of Mos-cow State Linguistic University and is supported by the Russian Science Foundation (grant №14­48­00067­П).

FundersFunder number
Russian Science Foundation144800067П


    • Embodiment
    • Event construal
    • French L2
    • Gesture studies
    • Grammatical aspect
    • Russian


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