Gesture-based customer interactions: deaf and hearing Mumbaikars’ multimodal and metrolingual practices

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International Journal of Multilingualism, ISSN: 1479-0718, Vol: 14, Issue: 3, Page: 283-302

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Annelies Kusters
Informa UK Limited
Arts and Humanities; Social Sciences
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article description
The article furthers the study of urban multilingual (i.e. metrolingual) practices, in particular the study of customer interactions, by a focus on the use of gestures in these practices. The article focuses on fluent deaf signers and hearing non-signers in Mumbai who use gestures to communicate with each other, often combined with mouthing, speaking and/or writing in different languages. The data were gathered through linguistic ethnography in markets, shops, food joints and public transport in Mumbai. Within gesture-based interactions, people with sensorial asymmetries (i.e. deaf vs. hearing) combined the visual-gestural modality and certain features of the auditory-oral modality, and/or switched between modalities. Interlocutors thus orient towards the ongoing interaction and negotiate the constraints and possibilities imposed not only by different modalities but also by different sensorial access to these modalities.