Gesture Phrases and Exchanges

Video examples: Phrase and Exchange example 3, example 4, and example 5
Warning!!! these are long clips, please be patient as they may take a little while to load.

Phrases: Gestures do not occur only one at a time; more than half of Kubie’s gestures were part of strings, or “phrases”. Kubie’s phrases varied in length from 2 to 8 gestures, while a third of Zura’s gestures were part of phrases. Zura’s phrases varied in length from 2 to 4 gestures.

Exchanges: Gestures may occur in dialogues, or “exchanges” between gorillas; functional elements of gestural phrases include:

Some gestures may be included in more than one functional category, as they can be used in different ways functionally.

For a detailed analysis:

Tanner, Joanne E. (2004). Gestural phrases and exchanges by a pair of zoo-living lowland gorillas. Gesture 4(1), 1-24.  Warning !!!  Large .pdf file


- Dr. Joanne Tanner

- Charles Ernest



SF Zoo Gorillas

Gorilla Gestures Intro


- Why Create Gestures

- Tactile

- Visual

- Audible

- Iconic

- Imitation

- Phrases/Exchanges

    - Attention Getters

    - Motion Depiction

    - Indicators

    - Negatives

- Other Zoos

- Gesture Table

- Triadic Play Intro

- Triadic Play Research


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