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Journal Article

‘Lip-pointing’: A discussion of form and function with reference to data from Laos


Enfield,  N. J.
Language and Cognition Group, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;

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Enfield, N. J. (2001). ‘Lip-pointing’: A discussion of form and function with reference to data from Laos. Gesture, 1(2), 185-211. doi:10.1075/gest.1.2.06enf.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0013-38A9-3
‘Lip-pointing’ is a widespread but little-documented form of deictic gesture, which may involve not just protruding one or both lips, but also raising the head, sticking out the chin, lifting the eyebrows, among other things. This paper discusses form and function of lip-pointing with reference to a set of examples collected on video in Laos. There are various parameters with respect to which the conventional form of a lip-pointing gesture may vary. There is also a range of ways in which lip-pointing gestures can be coordinated with other kinds of deictic gesture such as various forms of hand pointing. The attested coordinating/sequencing possibilities can be related to specific functional properties of lip-pointing among Lao speakers, particularly in the context of other forms of deictic gesture, which have different functional properties. It is argued that the ‘vector’ of lip-pointing is in fact defined by gaze, and that the lip-pointing action itself (like other kinds of ‘pointing’ involving the head area) is a ‘gaze-switch’, i.e. it indicates that the speaker is now pointing out something with his or her gaze. Finally, I consider the position of lip-pointing in the broader deictic gesture system of Lao speakers, firstly as a ‘lower register’ form, and secondly as a form of deictic gesture which may contrast with forms of hand pointing.