Temporal Expressions in Speech and Gesture

People use spatial metaphors to talk about temporal concepts. They also gesture frequently during speech. The characteristics of these gestures give information regarding the mental timelines people form to experience time. The present study investigates the expression of temporal concepts on a natural setting with Turkish speakers. We found that Turkish speakers used more metaphoric temporal phrases (e.g., short period, time flies quickly) than words referring to time without spatial content (e.g., today, nowadays) in a session where they talked about people’s fortune. Spontaneous gestures were mainly classified as metaphoric and beat gestures and were mostly produced on the sagittal axis, which contradicts with the previous findings. Yet, we also found that people used vertical axis to represent current and future events. These findings suggest that lateral axis may not always be the most common direction for co-speech temporal gesture use, and the pragmatic constraints of the environment may influence the spatial conceptualization of time.



Below you will find the images from the paper that depict the gesture directions as well as the setting of a coffee fortune-telling session.

Illustrations by Sabri Börütecene.

İdil Bostan, Ahmet Börütecene, Oğuzhan Özcan, Tilbe Göksun. (2016). Temporal Expression in Speech and Gesture. Proceedings of the 38th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci ‘16).