Professor David McNeill

Department of Psychology, The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, 60637, USA
Tel.: (773) 702-8833
Fax: (773) 702-4186
E-mail: dmcneillATuchicagoDOTedu

My research is concerned with the relationship of language to thought -- an old problem examined in a new way through the prism of the gestures that accompany utterances in discourse. A major focus is a theory in which the language-thought relationship is explained as a dynamic combination of imagery and language starting from a "growth point." A growth point can be inferred from gesture-speech synchrony, and it is a snapshot of an utterance at its beginning stage psychologically. Via gestures one can ask how a growth point self-organizes into a surface utterance that embodies core content and extends the discourse at each moment of speaking.

Data in this research consist of videotaped spoken narratives and other discourse forms together with their co-occurring spontaneous gestures (subjects view a film or cartoon, and tell the story to a listener). We have a sizable library of the same stimulus stories being retold by speakers of different languages (English, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Georgian, Swahili, and most of the European languages), by non-native speakers at different stages of learning English, by children at various ages, by adolescent deaf children not exposed to language models, and by speakers with neurological impairments (aphasic, right hemisphere damaged, and split-brain patients).

We have also conducted experiments on gesture performance: the pickup of gesture information by listeners (detected by planting mismatching gestures in a videotaped story the subject retells), change in gestures when they are required to carry the full communicative burden (a joint experiment with Susan Goldin-Meadow and Jenny Singleton), a gesture-speech cross-overs (changes of gesture when speech is interfered with, changes of speech when gesture is interfered with).

Biographical Information
University of California, Berkeley
University of California, Berkeley
Harvard University

Psychology AB 1953
Psychology PhD 1962
Center for Cognitive Studies, 1963

Professional Positions
Harvard University, Research Fellow, Center for Cognitive Studies
University of Michigan, Assistant to Associate Professor of Psychology
Harvard University, Visiting Associate Professor of Psychology
University of Chicago, Professor of Psychology and Linguistics
University of Chicago, Professor Psychology and Linguistics Emeritus
Duke University, Department of Anthropology, Visiting Professor
University of Chicago, Chair, Department of Psychology
Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen, Visitor

1963 - 1965
1965 - 1969
1967 - 1969
1969 - 2001
2001 -
1991 - 1997
1998 - 1999
Memberships, Honors
Phi Beta Kappa
Sigma Xi
Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science
Fellow, American Psychological Society
Guggenheim Fellow
Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, Member
Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study, Fellow
Award for Outstanding Faculty Achievement, University of Chicago
Gordon J. Laing Prize for Hand and Mind
Gustaf Stern Lecturer, University of Göteborg, Sweden
Vice President, International Society for Gesture Studies

1973 - 1974
1973 - 1975
1983 - 1984
2002 - 2005

Books (Please visit the lab "publications" page for more.)

McNeill, D. (Fall 2005) Gesture and Thought. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
McNeill, D. (2000) (Ed.). Language and Gesture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
McNeill, D. (1992). Hand and Mind. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
McNeill, D. (1987). Psycholinguistics. New York: Harper & Row.
McNeill, D. (1979). The Conceptual Basis of Language. Hillsdale: Erlbaum.
McNeill, D. (1970). The Acquisition of Language. New York: Harper.