Conference language

The conference language is English and ISL interpreters will be available.

We encourage you to check out the related International Congress of Linguists conference also in Cape Town.


The International Society for Gesture Studies (ISGS) is pleased to announce the Eighth Conference of the International Society for Gesture Studies: Gesture and Diversity. It will be held in Cape Town, South Africa, July 4-8, 2018.

The conference will commence the afternoon of Wednesday 4 July and close after lunch on Sunday 8 July.

Established in 2002, the ISGS is an interdisciplinary group of researchers including anthropologists, cognitive scientists, computer scientists, linguists, neuroscientists, psychologists, and semioticians. The Society convenes for a major international conference every two years to share perspectives on the study of gesture and bodily communication.

Conference theme

The first conference on gesture on the African continent will focus on the rich diversity of human gestural communication. Gestures and gestural behaviour are dynamic and changing –  varying not only across languages and cultures but also within cultural groups according to social levels, age, gender and situation.

The main aim of this conference will be to examine the wide range of linguistic and cultural phenomena and other factors that influence and shape gestural diversity. Special emphasis will be on comparative work looking at, but not limited to:

  1. Studies on gestural form, meaning and function;
  2. The relationship of gesture to language, whether spoken or signed;
  3. Gesture in language development and learning among children in different cultures and multilingual contexts;
  4. Gesture in language learning and conceptual development;
  5. Individual variation in gesture use and comprehension;
  6. The link between gesture and cognitive, cultural and linguistic diversity;
  7. Studies of gestural forms and practices across languages and cultures;
  8. Gesture and its role in sign language variation.

We also encourage scholars to submit papers for our special focus on the Anthropology of Gesture with invited keynotes on:

  1. Gesture and body in Africa;
  2. Gesture and embodiment;
  3. Gesture and performance;
  4. Gesture and narrative – special focus on indigenous peoples of Central Australia;
  5. Gesture and emerging sign languages in Africa and South America;
  6. Gesture, cognition and linguistic relativity.

To view the organising committee please click below

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