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Body Gesture and Language Expression

On Wundt’s Gestural Theory of Language

Origins and His Idea of Folkpsychology

Yuan-Tse Lin

Department of Philosophy, National Chengchi University

No. 64, Sec. 2, ZhiNan Rd., Taipei 11605, Taiwan



Based on the gestural theory of language origins that Wundt of-

fered in his


, this paper aims to justify the notion that

the foundation of the meaning of words lies in bodily gestures, such as

facial and pantomimic expression. Since Wundt’s body gesture theory

of meaning derives from the tradition of philosophy of language in

the nineteenth century, this paper would also retrace to the psycho-

logical turn within historical comparative linguistics in that century,

and explain how Steinthal’s psychological exposition of Humboldt’s

inner language form carried weight with Wundt’s insight that the ac-

cessibility of the meaning of language should be established upon ex-

pressive movements of affection and the body. These explanations

will, at last, reveal Wundt’s concept of folkpsychology as a linguistic

foundation of cultural science.

Key Words


the gestural theory of language origins, the theory of

meaning, body gesture, folkpsychology, Wilhelm