Steps towards a semantics of dance
Pritty Patel-Grosz, Patrick Georg Grosz, Tejaswinee Kelkar, Alexander Refsum Jensenius
May 2022

As formal theoretical linguistic methodology has matured, recent years have seen the advent of applying it to objects of study that transcend language, e.g., to the syntax and semantics of music (Lerdahl & Jackendoff 1983, Schlenker 2017a; see also Rebuschat et al. 2011). One of the aims of such extensions is to shed new light on how meaning is construed in a range of communicative systems. In this paper, we approach this goal by looking at narrative dance in the form of Bharatanatyam. We argue that a semantic approach to dance can be modeled closely after the formal semantics of visual narrative proposed by Abusch (2013, 2014, 2021). A central conclusion is that dance not only shares properties of other fundamentally human means of expression, such as visual narrative and music, but that it also exhibits similarities to sign languages and the gestures of non-signers (see, e.g., Schlenker 2020) in that it uses space to track individuals in a narrative and performatively portray the actions of those individuals. From the perspective of general human cognition, these conclusions corroborate the idea that linguistic investigations beyond language (see Patel-Grosz et al. forthcoming) can yield insights into the very nature of the human mind and of the communicative devices that it avails.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/005634
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: to appear in Journal of Semantics
keywords: dance, formal semantics, visual narrative, pictorial semantics, situation semantics, super linguistics, semantics
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