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What can sign language tell us about human understanding?

Problems of understanding occur all the time in our everyday social life. Elizabeth Manrique studied how sign language users manage to understand each other based on a large Conversational Corpus collected in Argentina. Manrique will defend her thesis on April 7th at 12.30 at the Aula of Radboud University Nijmegen.
What can sign language tell us about human understanding?

The ability to communicate with others is one the most basic and powerful tools we have as humans. Communication can only be successful when there is mutual understanding between people in conversation. Problems of understanding have been studied in a range of disciplines, especially in spoken languages. Yet whatever the modality being used, all language users are faced with the challenge of maintaining and achieving mutual understanding in their everyday informal conversations.

Bodily language, facial and manual gestures, as well as eye contact have been shown to play a fundamental role in communication. Elizabeth Manrique examined the direct and indirect strategies that sign language users display when facing difficulties in signing, seeing and understanding. Manrique’s thesis contributes to our knowledge of human understanding by offering an in-depth empirical study of Argentine Sign Language (LSA). Advancing our knowledge of the visual and gestural communicative strategies that accompany breakdowns in conversation does not only have theoretical, but also educational and therapeutic relevance, especially nowadays since our communicational demands are changing rapidly due to the intense role technology plays in our social face-to-face interactions.

Further information

  • Elizabeth Manrique will defend her thesis on Friday, April 7th at 12.30 at the Aula of the Radboud University.
  • The thesis appears in the MPI Series in Psycholinguistics (no 119).
About MPI

This is the MPI

The Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics is an institute of the German Max Planck Society. Our mission is to undertake basic research into the psychological,social and biological foundations of language. The goal is to understand how our minds and brains process language, how language interacts with other aspects of mind, and how we can learn languages of quite different types.

The institute is situated on the campus of the Radboud University. We participate in the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, and have particularly close ties to that institute's Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging. We also participate in the Centre for Language Studies. A joint graduate school, the IMPRS in Language Sciences, links the Donders Institute, the CLS and the MPI.


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