Speech, Action and Gestures as Contest for Ongoing Task-oriented Talk

Justine Cassell

In this paper, I address the question of why communicating autonomous agents need not only language but also bodies and a world in which to interact or, othenvise put, what the relationship is among actions, gestures and words. In order to place the issue at hand -- theoretical considerations in designing a semantics for artificial agents -- in perspective, I start by discussing the development of situated language in children, then turn to the ways in which language can be situated for adults, arriving at the idea that the gesture - speech relationship partially determines the context for a given communicative act. These notes are very much a work in progress, the beginnings of an attempt to take seriously Malinowski’s (1923) claim that the study of language in use reveals "the dependence of the meaning of each word upon practical experience, and of the structure of each utterance upon the momentary situation in which it is spoken."

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