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Holly Keily

3MT Presentation:

Gesturing to make a point: Who is that gesture for?

PhD Program:



Juergen Bohnemeyer


Holly Keily, originally from Colorado, has lived and worked in several cities around the world, including: Denver, Colorado; Avignon, France; Frewsburg, New York; Kailua, Hawaii; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and now Buffalo. She graduated from the University of Denver in 2010 with a Bachelor of Science in business administration and a Bachelor of Arts in French. She is also a graduate of the Denver Publishing Institute.

In 2012, Keily joined UB's Department of Linguistics, where her research is on the origin and function of co-speech gesture. She was on the Tonal Aspects of Languages program committee hosted by UB last spring and helped edit and publish the conference proceedings. She's a graduate assistant for Accessibility Resources and a research assistant in the department of linguistics. She has also been a teaching assistant in linguistics and has taught several classes.

What made you interested in your dissertation research topic?

T.S. Matthews, the former editor of Time magazine, is credited with having said: "Communication is something so simple and difficult that we can never put it in simple words." When we study historical linguistics we are limited to written information, but when we watch people talk we see them using posture, directed attention and gesture to elaborate on their message. I'm interested in all of the information that people give to their interlocutors, not just words.

I was part of a student-led reading group on politeness strategies and we discussed how people can use gesture while being polite. I was able the following year to lead my own reading group focused on co-speech gesture. We looked at a variety of gesture theories and gesture research and I became interested in how people can use gesture to help them solve problems.

Why did you decide to attend UB for your PhD?

Students in UB's Linguistics Department come out of the program with a solid understanding of the breadth of the subject. We have the opportunity to work with amazing researchers who are enthusiastic about the entire field of linguistics; the department fosters student creativity. I have been able to lead a reading group, participate in other student-led reading groups, join research labs across different sub-disciplines, and design my own research program and experiments. I also have family in Western New York and New Jersey and was looking forward to the opportunity to spend more time with them. I was also looking forward to the gorgeous falls of this part of the country!

Name your favorite thing to do in Buffalo. What do you enjoy about that?

I love going to the Albright-Knox. I studied art history when I lived in France and the Albright-Knox has an amazing collection. I love the diversity of style and medium that the gallery has. It is an amazing gallery and I am always impressed by it. I love bringing visitors to see it.