Transitivity, events, and gesture: The case of the causative-inchoative alternation

Suwei Wu, Alan Cienki*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


An increasing number of studies are being devoted to the investigation of what aspects of grammar, and of events, expressed in speech are coordinated with gesture. However, previous studies have focused on gesture use in relation to either transitivity or event properties, without considering how these factors interact. In this study, we consider how gesture use relates to transitivity when the type of event in the causativeinchoative alternation is considered, and also how gesture use relates to properties of the events when the type of transitivity is considered. We found various relations both between gesture use and transitivity on the one hand, and between gesture use and certain properties of events on the other hand. Whereas some of the results contrast with the findings in previous studies about the relation between gesture and transitivity, other results obtained actually reinforce and complement some previous findings. The results concerning event properties and gesture also add to previous studies about which properties of certain motor-spatial events relate to gesture and how they do so. The study thus provides a more nuanced understanding of the relation between gesture and language.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)311–331
Number of pages21
JournalOpen Linguistics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019


  • Co-speech gesture
  • Events
  • The causative-inchoative alternation
  • Transitivity


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