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Catchments, growth points, and the iterability of signs in classroom communication

During lectures, a variety of signs- including those of written, oral, gestural, and orientational nature- are produced while the teacher communicates very specific conceptual meanings to students. In this article, we are concerned with the occurrence of particular signs constituted by both words and gestures that comprise a dialectical, indivisible unit. We focus specifically in the repetition of gestures, which, following McNeill (2002), we identify as catchments, and which occur within and across lessons dealing with the same conceptual topic. As the teacher presents new information, catchments and growth points (McNeill, 2002) provide cohesion to the discourse until the concept being taught achieves stabilization. The gesture and word unit constitutes a double signifier, verbal and visual at the same time, and the several repetitions of the gesture throughout various lessons constitute a special case of sign iteration (Derrida, 1988), as we demonstrate in our analysis of an illustrative case extracted from a database comprised of twenty-six videotaped high school biology lessons. The "same" sign is repeated numerous times, and, in each iteration, the unit of gesture and word produces and reproduces the meaning of the signified and of themselves as signifiers.

Pozzer-Ardenghi, L., & Roth, W.-M. (in press). Catchments, growth points, and the iterability of signs in classroom communication. Semiotica.

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