This is the first historical investigation on the nonverbal component of conversation. In the courtly society of 16th and 17th century England, it is argued that a drift appeared toward an increased use of prosodic means of expression at the expense of gestural means. Direct evidence is provided by courtesy books and personal documents of the time, indirect evidence by developments in the English lexicon. The rationale of the argument is cognitively grounded; given the integral role of gestures in thinking-for-speaking, it rests on an isomorphism between gestural and prosodic behavior that is established semiotically and elaborated by insights from neurocognitive frequency theory and task dynamics. The proposal is rounded off by an illustration from present-day conversational data and the proof of its adaptability to current theories of language change. The cross-disciplinary approach addresses all those interested in (historical) pragmatics, cognitive linguistics, cultural semantics, semiotics, or language change.
1. Introduction; 2. Subjecting the body to control; 3. Are gestures dispensable?; 4. The touchstone of real life; 5. Words for gestures?; 6. Turning to the vocal mode; 7. Pieces of historical evidence for a prosodic turn; 8. Repercussions of the prosodic turn in the lexicon; 9. Prince and petit bourgeois: A virtual picture; 10. Recast into a conjectural history of modal change; 11. Bibliography; 12. Author index; 13. Subject index