chapter  7
14 Pages

Verbal and non-verbal: a linguistic mislocation of agency

Overview I build on the position articulated in Chapters 3 and 6 to challenge further the persistent verbal/non-verbal dualism in linguistic thought, employing new realism, semasiology, and the embodied conception of language shared by Nakota and other indigenous peoples of the Plains region of North America, to challenge the conventional dualistic conception of person and associated disembodied language ideology. With these theoretical resources in hand, we gain a radically different perspective from which to explore how an American-English speaker, and a Nakota speaker/sign talker, consistently and systematically integrate vocal signs (speech) with action signs (manual gestures) to create dynamically embodied talk in socially constructed, inter-subjective, corporeal spaces, albeit in different ways. Nakota linguistic practices are not thought of as verbal utterances located internal to the mind, at best supported (or as is sometimes supposed, contradicted) by nonverbal outward behaviors of the body. They are instead dynamically embodied signifying acts that simultaneously integrate vocal signs and action signs, both of which constitute ‘talking.’ I return to poetics to compare the metaphorically laden co-expressive gestures of an American-English speaker with those of a Nakota speaker fluent in Plains Sign language. I note differences in spatial locations, semantic and pragmatic functions, and cultural concepts of mind-body that are made visible through gestural means. I also highlight the dynamically embodied grammar of ‘I’ and deictic use of pronouns, and examine important contrasts in the structure of inter-subjective performance spaces. I suggest that traditional approaches to language (including metaphor and deixis) have failed to see this vocal/visual integration at work.