Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Curriculum & Instruction

First Committee Member

Steven G. McCafferty

Second Committee Member

Shaoan Zhang

Third Committee Member

Chyllis Scott

Fourth Committee Member

LeAnn G. Putney

Number of Pages



This study investigates the use of mimetic gestures of identity by foreign language teachers of Italian and their students in college classes as a form of meaning-making. All four of the teachers were found to use a variety of Italian gestures as a regular aspect of their teaching and presentation of self. Students and teachers also were found to mirror each other’s gestures. None of the teachers had been video-recorded before the study and all were surprised to see the degree to which they appeared to be Italian, although at the same time all believed this to be an important and positive aspect of their teaching. Students had similar views on the significant role of authentic embodiment of the Italian languaculture for instructors and students alike, particularly in relation to renting a new identity. In offering an explanation for these findings we consider the role of gesture as a social semiotic in learning another language, how teachers perform their identity in the classroom and use gesture to prolept students into a possible future as embodied communicators of the language (thus encouraging language learners to acquire their own identity within a figured world), the process of communicative actuation as it relates to learning a language across different timescales and environments, and how all of the above relates to the zone of proximal development and its application to frontier regions of development.


Classroom; Gesture; Identity; Imitation; Italian language – Study and teaching – Foreign speakers; Language teaching and learning; Second language acquisition; Sociocultural Theory; Speech and gesture


Education | Italian Linguistics | Language Description and Documentation | Linguistics | Other Languages, Societies, and Cultures | Sociology

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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