Contexts of use of a rotated palms gesture among Syuba (Kagate) speakers in Nepal Academic Article uri icon


  • Abstract In this paper I examine the use of the ‘rotated palms’ gesture family among speakers of Syuba (Tibeto-Burman, Nepal), as recorded in a video corpus documenting this language. In this family of gestures one or both forearms are rotated to a supine (‘palm up’) position, each hand with thumb and forefinger extended and the other fingers, in varying degrees, flexed toward the palm. When used independently from speech this gesture tends to be performed in a relatively consistent manner, and is recognised as an interrogative gesture throughout India and Nepal. In this use it can be considered an emblem. When used with speech it shows more variation, but can still be used to indicate the interrogative nature of what is said, even when the speech may not indicate interrogativity in its linguistic construction. I analyse the form and function of this gesture in Syuba and argue that there are a number distinct functions relating to interrogativity. These can therefore be considered as a family of gestures. This research lays the groundwork for a better understanding of this common family of gestures across the South Asian area, and beyond.

publication date

  • 2018