• Associated Researchers: Alan Cienki, Joep Cornelissen, Mike Huiskes, Tessa van Charldorp, Vaclav Brezina (2012-2013)
  • Ph.D. Candidates: Bertie Kaal, Kasper Kok, Kashmiri Stec, Ruben van Werven, Suwei Wu
  • Visiting Scholars: Nicolina Montesano Montessori (2011-present), Lucas Bietti (2011-2013), Camille Debras (Spring 2012),


Current Members


Alan Cienki, Associate Professor, Dept. of Language and Communication, VU; Coordinator of the AGC.

Alan’s research interests include cognitive linguistics and cognitive science, interaction analysis, and (more recently) critical discourse analysis; and applications of these to discourse in the domains of academics, politics, and entrepreneurship. His work stems from semantic analysis in the field of cognitive linguistics, including the areas of conceptual metaphor and metonymy, framing, conceptual integration/blending, schemas, and grammatical theory. This has led him to develop an approach to language as variably multimodal, with the variance depending on cognitive/attentional and social/contextual factors on different scales of granularity. He is interested in the role of gesture analysis in such research applied to different domains of discourse, particularly for how it may reveal processes of thinking-for-speaking, the use of mental imagery, and mental simulation. This can provide insights into how speakers are framing their ideas dynamically moment by moment – to achieve particular discursive aims (such as persuasion) or when engaged in particular phases of interaction (such as moments of alignment or disalignment). Alan’s academic webpage.

Joep Cornelissen, Professor of Corporate Communication and Organisation Theory, VU and University of Leeds.

Joep works on the topic of gesture usage as part of entrepreneurial pitches and communication towards resource providers such as investors and possible customers. This work has been published in specialized entrepreneurship journals (with Jean Clarke and Alan Cienki in ISBJ) and formed the basis for a theoretical paper on entrepreneurship (with Jean Clarke in the Academy of Management Review). He is continuing this line of research with Jean Clarke and Alan Cienki. Joep’s academic webpage.

Mike Huiskes, Associate Professor, Dept. of Communication and Information Sciences,  University of Groningen.

Bertie Kaal, PhD candidate, Dept. of Language and Communication, VU.

Bertie has been interested in multimodal communication and gesture studies for over 15 years. She stimulated the publication of the journal Gesture and the Gesture Studies book series at Benjamins, with Cornelia Muller and Adam Kendon as its editors. She initiated various other journals that promoted multimodal and multidisciplinary communication research and inspired Fernando Poyatos to write the trilogy Nonverbal Communication across Disciplines (2002). She is currently working on the PhD project ‘From Text to Political Positions’ to reveal discursive variations in perspectives in political-party platforms. This should lead to a cognitive-discourse model to identify temporal and spatial frames of reference and their Origo as indicators of party positions on political dimensions. She is co-founder of the Amsterdam Critical Discourse Community, also based at the VU University Amsterdam. For more information, visit www.academia.edu/bertiekaal

Kasper Kok, Ph.D. candidate, Dept. of Language and Communication, VU.

In his Ph.D. project, Kasper aims to develop a cognitive-functional model of multimodal language production. This involves theoretical explorations of how cognitive and communicative factors constrain the use and form of gesture (based on Cognitive Grammar and Functional Discourse Grammar), as well as the use of multimodal corpora to evaluate the empirical predictions thus derived.

Nicolina Montesano Montessori, Researcher, Utrecht University of Applied Sciences.

Nicolina’s research interests are political discourse, critical discourse analysis (CDA), social justice, the discourse of the Occupy movement in Spain, and horizontal leadership in social movements. Her current project involves a multimodal analysis of videorecorded interviews with three leaders of social movements in the Netherlands (Givolicious, MasterPeace and Zeitgeist). What the three movements have in common is that they call for a paradigm shift in the direction of a free and sustainable world. The analysis relies on a methodology that combines CDA with gesture studies and entails a reflection on how these two research traditions work together (considering the benefits and challenges). For more information, see http://hu.academia.edu/NicolinaMontesanoMontessori

Kashmiri Stec, Ph.D. candidate, Dept. of Communication and Information Sciences, University of Groningen.

Kashmiri is interested in language, meaning construction and cognition.  She is particularly interested in how viewpoint is expressed across different modalities and how these modalities point to conceptualization. She is particularly drawn to multimodal studies since these suggest core semiotic representations which are expressed complementarily. Currently, Kashmiri is working on two projects. One seeks to explain the non-verbal behaviors accompanying different quotative constructions in spoken dialogue. The other, done in collaboration with Eve Sweetser (U.C. Berkeley), concerns the simultaneous activation of multiple viewpoints in speech and gesture, especially cases of “non-aligned viewpoint” where speech suggests one viewpoint and gesture another. Kashmiri’s academic webpage.

Tessa van Charldorp, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Language and Communication, VU.

Tessa’s research focuses on face-to-face talk in mundane and institutional settings as well as online interactions on various sites and social media environments. She applies conversation analysis and discourse analysis to talk, texts and online interactions. She also enjoys doing ethnographic research.  She is particularly interested in human-technology interaction, police-citizen interaction, norms and values of (Dutch) teenagers, online settings, and criminality. Tessa completed her dissertation ‘From police interrogation to police record’ in 2011. In this dissertation she outlined how a written police record comes to be constructed through talk and typing. Her current research project is titled: ‘Writing, blogging, facebooking, rapping, tweeting about criminality. An insight into the life world, norms and values of the Dutch youth through websites, YouTube, Hyves, Facebook & Twitter.’ Tessa is part of the Amsterdam Gesture Center because she is interested in how ICT and new media impacts social relations within the family and how children and parents claim knowledge in relation to new media and ICT. She hopes to start a new research project that will be concerned with how family members interact with new media and ICT based on video recordings. Tessa’s academic webpage.

Ruben van Werven, Ph.D. candidate, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, VU.

Founders of new firms face problems in acquiring resources, because resource providers are faced with tremendous uncertainty about the venture’s future performance. These entrepreneurs therefore need to persuade investors or possible customers of the potential of their firm. In my PhD project, I want to find out how new firm founders use speech to improve the comprehensibility of their business idea, to reduce uncertainty about their capabilities as an entrepreneur, and to argue that their firm is in line with the institutionalized norms and values within the target industry. Additionally, I also want to examine the role nonverbal communication, for instance gesturing, plays in the process of persuading resource providers to commit to a new firm. The combination of these factors will provide more insight into how new venture founders try to overcome resource provider uncertainty. Ruben’s academic webpage.

Suwei Wu, Ph.D. candidate, Department of Language and Communication, VU.

Suwei is interested in Construction Grammar and gesture studies. Although Construction Grammar has experienced much development, most constructions in past studies have been taken from written texts or were invented by the authors themselves.  Suwei’s PhD project is specifically on the Multimodality of Spoken Language and Construction Grammar. Firstly, it will examine what the frequently appearing constructions in spoken English are. Secondly, the relationship between these constructions and gestures will be explored. For example, which constructions, or what levels of constructions, are more likely to be accompanied by gestures? And how do our co-speech gestures relate to constructions? Thus the theory of Construction Grammar may incorporate aspects of multimodality.


Past Members


Lucas Bietti, Marie Curie Fellow, Telecom ParisTech

Lucas is interested in the role of gesture in multimodal interactions and distributed cognitive processes in small groups. In his current postdoctoral position in Germany and as an active member of the Amsterdam Gesture Center at VU University Amsterdam, Lucas has been trying to develop mixed quantitative and qualitative methods to better understand the linguistic, embodied and distributed of nature of collaborative remembering to in small group in real-time multimodal interactions. For more information see: www.collectivememory.net.

Vaclav Brezina, Senior Research Associate, Lancaster University

Vaclav’s research interests are in the areas of corpus linguistics and sociolinguistics. In particular, he is interested in the dynamics of spoken and written academic discourse. He compiled ADVICe, a corpus of New Zealand spoken academic discourse, which is available together with materials on academic writing, corpus linguistics and sociolinguistics from his webpage http://www.lknol.com.

Camille Debras, Ph.D. candidate, Department of English Linguistics, Sorbonne Nouvelle University (Paris, France).

Camille’s research project is a multimodal study of stancetaking. Based on a corpus of semi-guided conversations about environmental issues, she looks at how speakers integrate verbal (markers of affective and epistemic stance) and non-verbal resources (hand gestures, shrugging, facial expressions, head movements), to take stance in the context of ethical discussion. For more information, see http://univ-paris3.academia.edu/CamilleDebras.