Title page for ETD etd-11082011-182511

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Gardner, Elsie Angelique Bergeron
Author's Email Address angeliquegardner@gmail.com
URN etd-11082011-182511
Title Nonverbal Communication among Pointe Coupee Creoles
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department French Studies
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Hegarty, Michael Committee Co-Chair
Russo, Adelaide Committee Co-Chair
Brody, Mary Jill Committee Member
Dubois, Sylvie Committee Member
Long, Alecia Dean's Representative
  • Creole
  • gesture
  • obsolescence
  • Louisiana
  • Pointe Coupee
  • personal sphere
  • conversational regulators
Date of Defense 2011-08-26
Availability unrestricted
Interactions are understood through the filter of language and culture. Because of this when people of different cultures interact, miscommunications often result. As both verbal and nonverbal aspects of communication are culturally specific, this paper examines trends in the nonverbal communication patterns of generations of Pointe Coupee Creoles undergoing language shift from Creole French in the older generation to English in the younger. The data demonstrate that nonverbal patterns are decoupled from verbal language to some extent in the degree to which they are maintained down the observable generations of Pointe Coupee Creole participants.

This study analyzes videos of naturally occurring conversations in Creole and English filmed in Pointe Coupee Parish, Louisiana, as well as an English-speaking control group filmed in Shreveport, Louisiana. These dialogues provide data on the frequency with which participants in various groups gesture, the duration of gesture phrases, as well as the personal sphere with its inverse relationship to the gestural sphere, and the usage of physical contact to regulate turn-at-talk. After establishing nonverbal communicative characteristics of the Creole speakers, I discuss the extent to which these features are maintained through successive generations. I find that while touching as a conversational regulator to hold speaker turn appears to have been dropped by the younger generation, other nonverbal communicative features such as the frequency of gesturing and wider gestural spheres (smaller personal spheres) observed in the older, Creole-dominant generation are maintained by the younger generation of English-dominant Pointe Coupee Creoles. Thus, aspects of the nonverbal patterns survive longer than the verbal system in this speech community.

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