Yao Tong started her PhD at the Department of Language, Literature and Communication at the VU in October 2015 after finishing her Research Master’s degree in Linguistics, also at the VU. Her research interests include metaphor studies, co-speech gestures, cognitive linguistics, and interpersonal communication.
Yao’s PhD research project focuses on co-speech gestures depicting literal versus metaphorical actions; for example, how gestures depicting concrete actions (e.g., push the door) versus metaphorical actions (e.g., push the limit) are related to, or different from, each other. Using a corpus-analytical approach, it aims to investigate how our linguistic and gestural behaviors are potentially motivated by our kinesthetic experiences. It examines linguistic semantic/metaphorical extensions of action verbs and the spontaneous, referential gestures speakers produce with them in naturally occurring language data.
The research involves linguistic pattern analysis of action verbs on the basis of different large corpora such as the British National Corpus (BNC) and the Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA). The data source for gesture analysis is a large video database/corpus (the UCLA NewsScape Library of International Television News) that includes transcription of the speech via accompanying closed captioning. This will allow for searching of the video material on a large scale to examine recurrent patterns of metaphorical expressions used with gestures.
Yao’s PhD project is funded by the China Scholarship Council.