Recipient Design by Gestures: How Depictive Gestures Embody Actions in Cooking Instructions

Niina Lilja, Arja Piirainen-Marsh

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This paper investigates how depictive gestures, i.e., hand movements that depict actions, scenes or objects, are configured and used for accomplishing instructions. By drawing on video recordings of second language interactions in cooking classes for newcomers in Finland, we focus on instructions that project a certain type of complying bodily action as the relevant next action. We demonstrate that the instructions are designed to be sensitive not only to the contingencies of the material ecology of the kitchen but also to the epistemic and linguistic asymmetries between the participants. The analysis shows how depictive gestures contribute to the forward-feeding function of cooking instructions by visualizing how the instructed action should be appropriately carried out. The findings contribute to the accumulating understanding of how embodied resources further intersubjectivity in second language interactions (Eskildsen & Wagner, 2015; Greer, 2019; Lilja & Piirainen-Marsh, 2019).
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages30
JournalSocial Interaction: Video-Based Studies of Human Sociality
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 21 Feb 2022
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • instruction, depiction, depictive gesture, recipient design, second language

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 1


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