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Hands occupied: Chinese farmers use more non-manual pointing than herders

Agricultural Communications Documentation Center (ACDC)
Li, Heng (main author), Cao, Yu (author)
Online journal article
Publication Date:
Science Direct
Agricultural Communications Documentation Center, Funk Library, University of Illinois
Subject Term:
communication behavior, farmers, livestock, occupations, farmer communication, People's Republic of China (PROC) (Eastern Asia), gestures, body language, cultural diversity, referential communication
9 pages., via online journal., A large body of research documents cross-cultural differences in manual and non-manual pointing. These findings have often been explained as being due to pragmatic, linguistic, cultural, and bodily constraints. The current study narrowed the plausible range of candidates for explaining the pointing preferences, focusing specifically on manual availability. We examined pointing preferences by administering a referential communication task in two types of communities which share a national identity, geographic environment, ethnicity, cultural background, and language and yet vary in their degree of hand availability: farming and herding communities in southwestern China. Our findings show that farmers, who emphasize the use of manual labour in intensive subsistence farming, were more likely to use non-manual pointing in the task than herders, who demonstrate a higher degree of manual availability in the rearing of animals. This research has implications for how the availability of the hands in economic activities may have lasting consequences on cultural pointing practices.