Keynote Speakers

Sotara Kita

After studying engineering in Japan (B.Eng., Mathematical engineering, University of Tokyo,1986; MEng. Information engineering, University of Tokyo, 1988), I moved to Chicago (USA). I received a Ph.D. in psychology and linguistics from the University of Chicago (1993) under the supervision of Professor David McNeill. In 1993, I joined Cognitive Anthropology Research Group (lead by Stephen Levinson) at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in the Netherlands as a postdoc.

I worked at the Max Planck Institute as a postdoc (1993-1994) and then a Senior Researcher in Levinson’s group (1994-2003). I have taught at the University of Bristol (2003-2006) and at the University of Birmingham (2006-2013). I have been in the current position (Professor of Psychology of Language) at the University of Warwick since 2013.

My research concerns psychology of communication. The main focus is on gestures that are spontaneously produced during speaking and thinking. For example, I have done research on how language structure shapes gestural representations (Kita & Özyürek, 2003), and how gesturing influence thinking and speaking (Kita, Alibali, & Chu, 2017). The second focus is development of communicative abilities in children. For example, I have investigated how adult gestures can facilitate word learning in children (Mumford & Kita, 2014), and how deaf children without linguistic input create a new language (Senghas, Kita, & Özyürek, 2004). I have also edited a book on pointing gesture from multi-disciplinary perspectives (Kita, 2003).

I have founded and lead the “Gesture Project” at Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics (1993-2003). I have served as the Vice President (2010-2012) and the President (2012-2014) of the International Society for Gesture Studies. I am the Editor of the journal, Gesture.

 

Olga Capirci

Olga Capirci is currently senior researcher at the CNR’s Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies and Head of the Action, Gesture, and Sign language (AG&S) Research Unit. She has been working at ISTC since 1992, her work centering on the co-development of language and perceptuo-motor processes and on understanding language acquisition as semantically driven and embodied. In particular, her research has contributed to enhancing importance of multimodal approaches to communication, by considering different modalities of expression (e.g., speech, gesture, signs) in children with typical and atypical development (e.g., deaf children, Down syndrome, Williams syndrome, and autism spectrum disorders) at different ages and within different interaction contexts and cognitive tasks (e.g., interaction with caregivers, lexical naming tasks, narration tasks).

She has also contributed to the development of better taxonomies and use of novel tools to code multimodal communication (e.g., ELAN coding grids, use of body worn-sensors, use of optical motion capture and robotic applications).

Her current efforts are focused on the study of the progression from action to language – spoken and signed – and on the continuity from gesture to sign. Furthermore, within an embodied approach to semantics, she is currently investigating the role of highly iconic structures in Sign Languages. In particular, her aim is to analyse formal features that appear to be influenced by the visual-gestural modality and differentiate such aspects from functionally comparable forms in verbal languages.

She is author of over 60 publications and member of: the Directive board of “Italian Psychologist Association” (AIP), the ISTC’s Board, the ISTC’s Ethic Committee, the Editorial Board of the peer-reviewed, open access journal Child Development Research.

Judith Holler

Judith Holler, Senior Investigator, Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics and Donders Centre for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Radboud University, Nijmegen.

Judith has a PhD in Psychology (2004, University of Manchester, UK) which focuses on the semantic interaction of the speech and gesture modalities in communication. Since then, her research has focused on the cognitive representations underlying the production of gestures, the development of gestural communication (in childhood and ageing, as well as in evolutionary terms), and the use of gesture in the context of impaired (e.g. Parkinson’s) and verbally challenging  (e.g. pain sensation) communication.

However, the primary focus of her research is on the use and comprehension of multimodal utterances in social interaction, looking at speech, manual and head gestures, facial signals and eye gaze. Core questions Judith is interested in concern the role of these various modalities and articulators in the transmission of information, their semantic, pragmatic and temporal interplay during utterance formation and comprehension, and their role in managing dialogue, turn-taking and the signalling of intentions. Judith explores these aspects with a combination of methods, including experimental research and corpus analyses.

 

Eve Sweetser

Eve Sweetser is Professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley, where she is also coordinator of the Gesture and Multimodality Group, and a founding faculty member and past director of the Program in Cognitive Science.

Her research program lies generally in cognitive linguistic approaches to the syntax and semantics of human language, including multimodality and embodiment, co-speech gesture, metaphor, poetics, and the semantics of grammatical constructions (especially conditionals).

In 2012 she co-edited Viewpoint in language: a multimodal perspective (Cambridge UP) with Barbara Dancygier, and in 2014 she co-authored the Cambridge textbook Figurative Language with Dancygier. She was a Co-PI with George Lakoff of the Berkeley MetaNet analysis group (2013-15).

Currently, she is a contributor of three articles to the in-press Cambridge Handbook of Cognitive Linguistics, and is working with Bonnie Howe and Therese DesCamp on a cognitive linguistics textbook for biblical scholars, Metaphors They Lived By.

Yolanda Covington-Ward

Yolanda Covington-Ward is an Associate Professor in the Department of Africana Studies with a secondary appointment in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Pittsburgh. She is also an affiliated faculty member in the African and Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Programs, and the Global Studies Center. She received her M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Michigan and a B.A. in Afro-American Studies from Brown University.

Her research places the body at the center of human experience, and focuses on the dynamic relationship between physical bodies and group identity. She has examined such questions through ethnographic and archival research on religious movements in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in her book Gesture and Power: Religion, Nationalism, and Everyday Performance in Congo (Duke University Press, January 2016).

She has new projects looking at identity formation, mental, and physical health for Liberian immigrants. She is also exploring embodiment in contemporary Kongo prophetic churches and is co-editing a volume on Embodiment and Relationality in Religions of Africa and its Diasporas. She has previously published in the journals Africa Today, The Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health, Women and Performance, Transforming Anthropology, The Journal of Africana Religions, and The Journal of Black Studies, among others.

She has received a number of prestigious fellowships including the Ford Postdoctoral Fellowship, the Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship, and is also a former Fulbright fellow. She teaches courses such as Cultures of Africa, Women of Africa and the African Diaspora, Power and Performance in Africa, and Global Diasporas.

Find out more at www.covington-ward.com.