Displaying 1 - 100 of 106
Dingemanse, M. (in press). Resource-rationality beyond individual minds: the case of interactive language use. Behavioural and Brain Sciences.
AbstractResource-rational approaches offer much promise for understanding human cognition, especially if they can reach beyond the confines of individual minds. Language allows people to transcend individual resource limitations by augmenting computation and enabling distributed cognition. Interactive language use, an environment where social rational agents routinely deal with resource constraints together, offers a natural laboratory to test resource-rationality in the wild.
Dingemanse, M., Perlman, M., & Perniss, P. (in press). Construals of iconicity: Experimental approaches to form-meaning resemblances in language. Language and Cognition.
AbstractWhile speculations on form-meaning resemblances in language go back millennia, the experimental study of iconicity is only about a century old. Here we take stock of experimental work on iconicity and present a double special issue with a diverse set of new contributions. We contextualise the work by introducing a typology of approaches to iconicity in language. Some approaches construe iconicity as a discrete property that is either present or absent; others treat it as involving semiotic relationships that come in kinds; and yet others see it as a gradient substance that comes in degrees. We show the benefits and limitations that come with each of these construals and stress the importance of developing accounts that can fluently switch between them. With operationalisations of iconicity that are well-defined yet flexible enough to deal with differences in tasks, modalities, and levels of analysis, experimental research on iconicity is well-equipped to contribute to a comprehensive science of language.
Nielsen, A., & Dingemanse, M. (in press). Iconicity in word learning and beyond: A critical review. Language and Speech.
AbstractInterest in iconicity (the resemblance-based mapping between aspects of form and meaning) is in the midst of a resurgence, and a prominent focus in the field has been the possible role of iconicity in language learning. Here we critically review theory and empirical findings in this domain. We distinguish local learning enhancement (where iconicity influences learning at the level of individual iconic lexical items) and general learning enhancement (where iconicity influences the later learning of non-iconic items or systems). We find that evidence for local learning enhancement is quite strong, though not as clear cut as it is often described and based on a limited number of languages. Despite common claims about broader facilitatory effects of iconicity on learning, we find that current evidence for general learning enhancement is lacking. We suggest a number of productive avenues for future research and specify what types of evidence would be required to show a role for iconicity general learning enhancement. We also review evidence for functions of iconicity beyond word learning: iconicity enhances comprehension by providing complementary representations, supports communication about sensory imagery, and expresses affective meanings. Even if learning benefits may be small or diffuse in nature, on balance, iconicity emerges as a vital aspect of language.
Sumer, B., & Ozyurek, A. (in press). No effects of modality in development of locative expressions of space in signing and speaking children. Journal of Child Language.
AbstractLinguistic expressions of locative spatial relations in sign languages are mostly visually- motivated representations of space involving mapping of entities and spatial relations between them onto the hands and the signing space. These are also morphologically complex forms. It is debated whether modality-specific aspects of spatial expressions modulate spatial language development differently in signing compared to speaking children. In a picture description task, we compared the use of locative expressions for containment, support and occlusion relations by deaf children acquiring Turkish Sign Language and hearing children acquiring Turkish (3;5-9;11 years). Unlike previous reports suggesting a boosting effect of iconicity, and / or a hindering effect of morphological complexity of the locative forms in sign languages, our results show similar developmental patterns for signing and speaking children's acquisition of these forms. Our results suggest the primacy of cognitive development guiding the acquisition of locative expressions by speaking and signing children.
Burghoorn, F., Dingemanse, M., Van Lier, R., & Van Leeuwen, T. M. (2020). The relation between the degree of synaesthesia, autistic traits, and local/global visual perception. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 50, 12-29. doi:10.1007/s10803-019-04222-7.
AbstractIn individuals with synaesthesia specific sensory stimulation leads to unusual concurrent perceptions in the same or a different modality. Recent studies have demonstrated a high co-occurrence between synaesthesia and autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a condition also characterized by altered perception. A potentially shared characteristic of synaesthesia and ASD is a bias towards local (detail-focussed) perception. We investigated whether a bias towards local perception is indeed shared between synaesthesia and ASD. In a neurotypical population, we studied the relation between the degree of autistic traits (measured by the AQ) and the degree of grapheme-colour synaesthesia (measured by a consistency task), as well as whether both are related to a local bias in tasks assessing local/global visual perception. A positive correlation between total AQ scores and the degree of synaesthesia was found. Our study extends previous studies that found a high ASD-synaesthesia co-occurrence in clinical populations. Consistent with the hypothesized local perceptual bias in ASD, scores on the AQ-attention to detail subscale were related to increased performance on an Embedded Figures Task (EFT), and we found evidence for a relation to reduced susceptibility to visual illusions. We found no relation between autistic traits and local visual perception in a motion coherence task (MCT). Also, no relation between synaesthesia and local visual perception was found, although a reduced susceptibility to visual illusions resembled the results obtained for AQ-atttention to detail subscale. A suggested explanation for the absence of a relationship between the degree of synaesthesia and a local bias is that a possible local bias might be more pronounced in supra-threshold synaesthetes (compared to neurotypicals).
Dingemanse, M., & Thompson, B. (2020). Playful iconicity: Structural markedness underlies the relation between funniness and iconicity. Language and Cognition. Advance online publication. doi:10.1017/langcog.2019.49.
AbstractWords like ‘waddle’, ‘flop’ and ‘zigzag’ combine playful connotations with iconic form-meaning resemblances. Here we propose that structural markedness may be a common factor underlying perceptions of playfulness and iconicity. Using collected and estimated lexical ratings covering a total of over 70,000 English words, we assess the robustness of this assocation. We identify cues of phonotactic complexity that covary with funniness and iconicity ratings and that, we propose, serve as metacommunicative signals to draw attention to words as playful and performative. To assess the generalisability of the findings we develop a method to estimate lexical ratings from distributional semantics and apply it to a dataset 20 times the size of the original set of human ratings. The method can be used more generally to extend coverage of lexical ratings. We find that it reliably reproduces correlations between funniness and iconicity as well as cues of structural markedness, though it also amplifies biases present in the human ratings. Our study shows that the playful and the poetic are part of the very texture of the lexicon.
Macuch Silva, V., Holler, J., Ozyurek, A., & Roberts, S. G. (2020). Multimodality and the origin of a novel communication system in face-to-face interaction. Royal Society Open Science, 7: 182056. doi:10.1098/rsos.182056.
AbstractFace-to-face communication is multimodal at its core: it consists of a combination of vocal and visual signalling. However, current evidence suggests that, in the absence of an established communication system, visual signalling, especially in the form of visible gesture, is a more powerful form of communication than vocalisation, and therefore likely to have played a primary role in the emergence of human language. This argument is based on experimental evidence of how vocal and visual modalities (i.e., gesture) are employed to communicate about familiar concepts when participants cannot use their existing languages. To investigate this further, we introduce an experiment where pairs of participants performed a referential communication task in which they described unfamiliar stimuli in order to reduce reliance on conventional signals. Visual and auditory stimuli were described in three conditions: using visible gestures only, using non-linguistic vocalisations only and given the option to use both (multimodal communication). The results suggest that even in the absence of conventional signals, gesture is a more powerful mode of communication compared to vocalisation, but that there are also advantages to multimodality compared to using gesture alone. Participants with an option to produce multimodal signals had comparable accuracy to those using only gesture, but gained an efficiency advantage. The analysis of the interactions between participants showed that interactants developed novel communication systems for unfamiliar stimuli by deploying different modalities flexibly to suit their needs and by taking advantage of multimodality when required.
Rasenberg, M., Rommers, J., & Van Bergen, G. (2020). Anticipating predictability: An ERP investigation of expectation-managing discourse markers in dialogue comprehension. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 35(1), 1-16. doi:10.1080/23273798.2019.1624789.
Abstractn two ERP experiments, we investigated how the Dutch discourse markers eigenlijk “actually”, signalling expectation disconfirmation, and inderdaad “indeed”, signalling expectation confirmation, affect incremental dialogue comprehension. We investigated their effects on the processing of subsequent (un)predictable words, and on the quality of word representations in memory. Participants read dialogues with (un)predictable endings that followed a discourse marker (eigenlijk in Experiment 1, inderdaad in Experiment 2) or a control adverb. We found no strong evidence that discourse markers modulated online predictability effects elicited by subsequently read words. However, words following eigenlijk elicited an enhanced posterior post-N400 positivity compared with words following an adverb regardless of their predictability, potentially reflecting increased processing costs associated with pragmatically driven discourse updating. No effects of inderdaad were found on online processing, but inderdaad seemed to influence memory for (un)predictable dialogue endings. These findings nuance our understanding of how pragmatic markers affect incremental language comprehension.
Akita, K., & Dingemanse, M. (2019). Ideophones (Mimetics, Expressives). In Oxford Research Encyclopedia for Linguistics. Oxford: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/acrefore/9780199384655.013.477.
AbstractIdeophones, also termed “mimetics” or “expressives,” are marked words that depict sensory imagery. They are found in many of the world’s languages, and sizable lexical classes of ideophones are particularly well-documented in languages of Asia, Africa, and the Americas. Ideophones are not limited to onomatopoeia like meow and smack, but cover a wide range of sensory domains, such as manner of motion (e.g., plisti plasta ‘splish-splash’ in Basque), texture (e.g., tsaklii ‘rough’ in Ewe), and psychological states (e.g., wakuwaku ‘excited’ in Japanese). Across languages, ideophones stand out as marked words due to special phonotactics, expressive morphology including certain types of reduplication, and relative syntactic independence, in addition to production features like prosodic foregrounding and common co-occurrence with iconic gestures. Three intertwined issues have been repeatedly debated in the century-long literature on ideophones. (a) Definition: Isolated descriptive traditions and cross-linguistic variation have sometimes obscured a typologically unified view of ideophones, but recent advances show the promise of a prototype definition of ideophones as conventionalised depictions in speech, with room for language-specific nuances. (b) Integration: The variable integration of ideophones across linguistic levels reveals an interaction between expressiveness and grammatical integration, and has important implications for how to conceive of dependencies between linguistic systems. (c) Iconicity: Ideophones form a natural laboratory for the study of iconic form-meaning associations in natural languages, and converging evidence from corpus and experimental studies suggests important developmental, evolutionary, and communicative advantages of ideophones.
Azar, Z., Backus, A., & Ozyurek, A. (2019). Language contact does not drive gesture transfer: Heritage speakers maintain language specific gesture patterns in each language. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition. Advance online publication. doi:10.1017/S136672891900018X.
AbstractThis paper investigates whether there are changes in gesture rate when speakers of two languages with different gesture rates (Turkish-high gesture; Dutch-low gesture) come into daily contact. We analyzed gestures produced by second-generation heritage speakers of Turkish in the Netherlands in each language, comparing them to monolingual baselines. We did not find differences between bilingual and monolingual speakers, possibly because bilinguals were proficient in both languages and used them frequently – in line with a usage-based approach to language. However, bilinguals produced more deictic gestures than monolinguals in both Turkish and Dutch, which we interpret as a bilingual strategy. Deictic gestures may help organize discourse by placing entities in gesture space and help reduce the cognitive load associated with being bilingual, e.g., inhibition cost. Therefore, gesture rate does not necessarily change in contact situations but might be modulated by frequency of language use, proficiency, and cognitive factors related to being bilingual.
Azar, Z., Ozyurek, A., & Backus, A. (2019). Turkish-Dutch bilinguals maintain language-specific reference tracking strategies in elicited narratives. International Journal of Bilingualism. Advance online publication. doi:10.1177/1367006919838375.
AbstractAim: This paper examines whether second-generation Turkish heritage speakers in the Netherlands follow language-specific patterns of reference tracking in Turkish and Dutch, focusing on discourse status and pragmatic contexts as factors that may modulate the choice of referring expressions (REs), that is, the noun phrase (NP), overt pronoun and null pronoun. Methodology: Two short silent videos were used to elicit narratives from 20 heritage speakers of Turkish, both in Turkish and in Dutch. Monolingual baseline data were collected from 20 monolingually raised speakers of Turkish in Turkey and 20 monolingually raised speakers of Dutch in the Netherlands. We also collected language background data from bilinguals with an extensive survey. Data and analysis: Using generalised logistic mixed-effect regression, we analysed the influence of discourse status and pragmatic context on the choice of subject REs in Turkish and Dutch, comparing bilingual data to the monolingual baseline in each language. Findings: Heritage speakers used overt versus null pronouns in Turkish and stressed versus reduced pronouns in Dutch in pragmatically appropriate contexts. There was, however, a slight increase in the proportions of overt pronouns as opposed to NPs in Turkish and as opposed to null pronouns in Dutch. We suggest an explanation based on the degree of entrenchment of differential RE types in relation to discourse status as the possible source of the increase. Originality: This paper provides data from an understudied language pair in the domain of reference tracking in language contact situations. Unlike several studies of pronouns in language contact, we do not find differences across monolingual and bilingual speakers with regard to pragmatic constraints on overt pronouns in the minority pro-drop language. Significance: Our findings highlight the importance of taking language proficiency and use into account while studying bilingualism and combining formal approaches to language use with usage-based approaches for a more complete understanding of bilingual language production.
Cuskley, C., Dingemanse, M., Kirby, S., & Van Leeuwen, T. M. (2019). Cross-modal associations and synesthesia: Categorical perception and structure in vowel–color mappings in a large online sample. Behavior Research Methods, 51, 1651-1675. doi:10.3758/s13428-019-01203-7.
AbstractWe report associations between vowel sounds, graphemes, and colours collected online from over 1000 Dutch speakers. We provide open materials including a Python implementation of the structure measure, and code for a single page web application to run simple cross-modal tasks. We also provide a full dataset of colour-vowel associations from 1164 participants, including over 200 synaesthetes identified using consistency measures. Our analysis reveals salient patterns in cross-modal associations, and introduces a novel measure of isomorphism in cross-modal mappings. We find that while acoustic features of vowels significantly predict certain mappings (replicating prior work), both vowel phoneme category and grapheme category are even better predictors of colour choice. Phoneme category is the best predictor of colour choice overall, pointing to the importance of phonological representations in addition to acoustic cues. Generally, high/front vowels are lighter, more green, and more yellow than low/back vowels. Synaesthetes respond more strongly on some dimensions, choosing lighter and more yellow colours for high and mid front vowels than non-synaesthetes. We also present a novel measure of cross-modal mappings adapted from ecology, which uses a simulated distribution of mappings to measure the extent to which participants' actual mappings are structured isomorphically across modalities. Synaesthetes have mappings that tend to be more structured than non-synaesthetes, and more consistent colour choices across trials correlate with higher structure scores. Nevertheless, the large majority (~70%) of participants produce structured mappings, indicating that the capacity to make isomorphically structured mappings across distinct modalities is shared to a large extent, even if the exact nature of mappings varies across individuals. Overall, this novel structure measure suggests a distribution of structured cross-modal association in the population, with synaesthetes on one extreme and participants with unstructured associations on the other.
Dideriksen, C., Fusaroli, R., Tylén, K., Dingemanse, M., & Christiansen, M. H. (2019). Contextualizing Conversational Strategies: Backchannel, Repair and Linguistic Alignment in Spontaneous and Task-Oriented Conversations. In A. K. Goel, C. M. Seifert, & C. Freksa (
Eds.), Proceedings of the 41st Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2019) (pp. 261-267). Montreal, QB: Cognitive Science Society.
AbstractDo interlocutors adjust their conversational strategies to the specific contextual demands of a given situation? Prior studies have yielded conflicting results, making it unclear how strategies vary with demands. We combine insights from qualitative and quantitative approaches in a within-participant experimental design involving two different contexts: spontaneously occurring conversations (SOC) and task-oriented conversations (TOC). We systematically assess backchanneling, other-repair and linguistic alignment. We find that SOC exhibit a higher number of backchannels, a reduced and more generic repair format and higher rates of lexical and syntactic alignment. TOC are characterized by a high number of specific repairs and a lower rate of lexical and syntactic alignment. However, when alignment occurs, more linguistic forms are aligned. The findings show that conversational strategies adapt to specific contextual demands.
Dingemanse, M. (2019). 'Ideophone' as a comparative concept. In K. Akita, & P. Pardeshi (
Eds.), Ideophones, Mimetics, and Expressives (pp. 13-33). Amsterdam: John Benjamins. doi:10.1075/ill.16.02din.
AbstractThis chapter makes the case for ‘ideophone’ as a comparative concept: a notion that captures a recurrent typological pattern and provides a template for understanding language-specific phenomena that prove similar. It revises an earlier definition to account for the observation that ideophones typically form an open lexical class, and uses insights from canonical typology to explore the larger typological space. According to the resulting definition, a canonical ideophone is a member of an open lexical class of marked words that depict sensory imagery. The five elements of this definition can be seen as dimensions that together generate a possibility space to characterise cross-linguistic diversity in depictive means of expression. This approach allows for the systematic comparative treatment of ideophones and ideophone-like phenomena. Some phenomena in the larger typological space are discussed to demonstrate the utility of the approach: phonaesthemes in European languages, specialised semantic classes in West-Chadic, diachronic diversions in Aslian, and depicting constructions in signed languages.
Drijvers, L., & Ozyurek, A. (2019). Non-native listeners benefit less from gestures and visible speech than native listeners during degraded speech comprehension. Language and Speech. Advance online publication. doi:10.1177/0023830919831311.
AbstractNative listeners benefit from both visible speech and iconic gestures to enhance degraded speech comprehension (Drijvers & Ozyürek, 2017). We tested how highly proficient non-native listeners benefit from these visual articulators compared to native listeners. We presented videos of an actress uttering a verb in clear, moderately, or severely degraded speech, while her lips were blurred, visible, or visible and accompanied by a gesture. Our results revealed that unlike native listeners, non-native listeners were less likely to benefit from the combined enhancement of visible speech and gestures, especially since the benefit from visible speech was minimal when the signal quality was not sufficient.
Drijvers, L., Van der Plas, M., Ozyurek, A., & Jensen, O. (2019). Native and non-native listeners show similar yet distinct oscillatory dynamics when using gestures to access speech in noise. NeuroImage, 194, 55-67. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2019.03.032.
AbstractListeners are often challenged by adverse listening conditions during language comprehension induced by external factors, such as noise, but also internal factors, such as being a non-native listener. Visible cues, such as semantic information conveyed by iconic gestures, can enhance language comprehension in such situations. Using magnetoencephalography (MEG) we investigated whether spatiotemporal oscillatory dynamics can predict a listener's benefit of iconic gestures during language comprehension in both internally (non-native versus native listeners) and externally (clear/degraded speech) induced adverse listening conditions. Proficient non-native speakers of Dutch were presented with videos in which an actress uttered a degraded or clear verb, accompanied by a gesture or not, and completed a cued-recall task after every video. The behavioral and oscillatory results obtained from non-native listeners were compared to an MEG study where we presented the same stimuli to native listeners (Drijvers et al., 2018a). Non-native listeners demonstrated a similar gestural enhancement effect as native listeners, but overall scored significantly slower on the cued-recall task. In both native and non-native listeners, an alpha/beta power suppression revealed engagement of the extended language network, motor and visual regions during gestural enhancement of degraded speech comprehension, suggesting similar core processes that support unification and lexical access processes. An individual's alpha/beta power modulation predicted the gestural benefit a listener experienced during degraded speech comprehension. Importantly, however, non-native listeners showed less engagement of the mouth area of the primary somatosensory cortex, left insula (beta), LIFG and ATL (alpha) than native listeners, which suggests that non-native listeners might be hindered in processing the degraded phonological cues and coupling them to the semantic information conveyed by the gesture. Native and non-native listeners thus demonstrated similar yet distinct spatiotemporal oscillatory dynamics when recruiting visual cues to disambiguate degraded speech.
Drijvers, L., Vaitonyte, J., & Ozyurek, A. (2019). Degree of language experience modulates visual attention to visible speech and iconic gestures during clear and degraded speech comprehension. Cognitive Science, 43: e12789. doi:10.1111/cogs.12789.
AbstractVisual information conveyed by iconic hand gestures and visible speech can enhance speech comprehension under adverse listening conditions for both native and non‐native listeners. However, how a listener allocates visual attention to these articulators during speech comprehension is unknown. We used eye‐tracking to investigate whether and how native and highly proficient non‐native listeners of Dutch allocated overt eye gaze to visible speech and gestures during clear and degraded speech comprehension. Participants watched video clips of an actress uttering a clear or degraded (6‐band noise‐vocoded) action verb while performing a gesture or not, and were asked to indicate the word they heard in a cued‐recall task. Gestural enhancement was the largest (i.e., a relative reduction in reaction time cost) when speech was degraded for all listeners, but it was stronger for native listeners. Both native and non‐native listeners mostly gazed at the face during comprehension, but non‐native listeners gazed more often at gestures than native listeners. However, only native but not non‐native listeners' gaze allocation to gestures predicted gestural benefit during degraded speech comprehension. We conclude that non‐native listeners might gaze at gesture more as it might be more challenging for non‐native listeners to resolve the degraded auditory cues and couple those cues to phonological information that is conveyed by visible speech. This diminished phonological knowledge might hinder the use of semantic information that is conveyed by gestures for non‐native compared to native listeners. Our results demonstrate that the degree of language experience impacts overt visual attention to visual articulators, resulting in different visual benefits for native versus non‐native listeners.
Supplementary materialSupporting information
Mamus, E., Rissman, L., Majid, A., & Ozyurek, A. (2019). Effects of blindfolding on verbal and gestural expression of path in auditory motion events. In A. K. Goel, C. M. Seifert, & C. C. Freksa (
Eds.), Proceedings of the 41st Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2019) (pp. 2275-2281). Montreal, QB: Cognitive Science Society.
AbstractStudies have claimed that blind people’s spatial representations are different from sighted people, and blind people display superior auditory processing. Due to the nature of auditory and haptic information, it has been proposed that blind people have spatial representations that are more sequential than sighted people. Even the temporary loss of sight—such as through blindfolding—can affect spatial representations, but not much research has been done on this topic. We compared blindfolded and sighted people’s linguistic spatial expressions and non-linguistic localization accuracy to test how blindfolding affects the representation of path in auditory motion events. We found that blindfolded people were as good as sighted people when localizing simple sounds, but they outperformed sighted people when localizing auditory motion events. Blindfolded people’s path related speech also included more sequential, and less holistic elements. Our results indicate that even temporary loss of sight influences spatial representations of auditory motion events
Ortega, G., Ozyurek, A., & Peeters, D. (2019). Iconic gestures serve as manual cognates in hearing second language learners of a sign language: An ERP study. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition. Advance online publication. doi:10.1037/xlm0000729.
AbstractWhen learning a second spoken language, cognates, words overlapping in form and meaning with one’s native language, help breaking into the language one wishes to acquire. But what happens when the to-be-acquired second language is a sign language? We tested whether hearing nonsigners rely on their gestural repertoire at first exposure to a sign language. Participants saw iconic signs with high and low overlap with the form of iconic gestures while electrophysiological brain activity was recorded. Upon first exposure, signs with low overlap with gestures elicited enhanced positive amplitude in the P3a component compared to signs with high overlap. This effect disappeared after a training session. We conclude that nonsigners generate expectations about the form of iconic signs never seen before based on their implicit knowledge of gestures, even without having to produce them. Learners thus draw from any available semiotic resources when acquiring a second language, and not only from their linguistic experience
Ortega, G., & Ozyurek, A. (2019). Systematic mappings between semantic categories and types of iconic representations in the manual modality: A normed database of silent gesture. Behavior Research Methods. Advance online publication. doi:10.3758/s13428-019-01204-6.
AbstractAn unprecedented number of empirical studies have shown that iconic gestures—those that mimic the sensorimotor attributes of a referent—contribute significantly to language acquisition, perception, and processing. However, there has been a lack of normed studies describing generalizable principles in gesture production and in comprehension of the mappings of different types of iconic strategies (i.e., modes of representation; Müller, 2013). In Study 1 we elicited silent gestures in order to explore the implementation of different types of iconic representation (i.e., acting, representing, drawing, and personification) to express concepts across five semantic domains. In Study 2 we investigated the degree of meaning transparency (i.e., iconicity ratings) of the gestures elicited in Study 1. We found systematicity in the gestural forms of 109 concepts across all participants, with different types of iconicity aligning with specific semantic domains: Acting was favored for actions and manipulable objects, drawing for nonmanipulable objects, and personification for animate entities. Interpretation of gesture–meaning transparency was modulated by the interaction between mode of representation and semantic domain, with some couplings being more transparent than others: Acting yielded higher ratings for actions, representing for object-related concepts, personification for animate entities, and drawing for nonmanipulable entities. This study provides mapping principles that may extend to all forms of manual communication (gesture and sign). This database includes a list of the most systematic silent gestures in the group of participants, a notation of the form of each gesture based on four features (hand configuration, orientation, placement, and movement), each gesture’s mode of representation, iconicity ratings, and professionally filmed videos that can be used for experimental and clinical endeavors.
Ortega, G., & Ozyurek, A. (2019). Types of iconicity and combinatorial strategies distinguish semantic categories in silent gesture. Language and Cognition. Advance online publication. doi:10.1017/langcog.2019.28.
AbstractIn this study we explore whether different types of iconic gestures (i.e., acting, drawing, representing) and their combinations are used systematically to distinguish between different semantic categories in production and comprehension. In Study 1, we elicited silent gestures from Mexican and Dutch participants to represent concepts from three semantic categories: actions, manipulable objects, and non-manipulable objects. Both groups favoured the acting strategy to represent actions and manipulable objects; while non-manipulable objects were represented through the drawing strategy. Actions elicited primarily single gestures whereas objects elicited combinations of different types of iconic gestures as well as pointing. In Study 2, a different group of participants were shown gestures from Study 1 and were asked to guess their meaning. Single-gesture depictions for actions were more accurately guessed than for objects. Objects represented through two-gesture combinations (e.g., acting + drawing) were more accurately guessed than objects represented with a single gesture. We suggest iconicity is exploited to make direct links with a referent, but when it lends itself to ambiguity, individuals resort to combinatorial structures to clarify the intended referent. Iconicity and the need to communicate a clear signal shape the structure of silent gestures and this in turn supports comprehension.
Ortega, G., Schiefner, A., & Ozyurek, A. (2019). Hearing non-signers use their gestures to predict iconic form-meaning mappings at first exposure to sign. Cognition. Advance online publication. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2019.06.008.
AbstractThe sign languages of deaf communities and the gestures produced by hearing people are communicative systems that exploit the manual-visual modality as means of expression. Despite their striking differences they share the property of iconicity, understood as the direct relationship between a symbol and its referent. Here we investigate whether non-signing hearing adults exploit their implicit knowledge of gestures to bootstrap accurate understanding of the meaning of iconic signs they have never seen before. In Study 1 we show that for some concepts gestures exhibit systematic forms across participants, and share different degrees of form overlap with the signs for the same concepts (full, partial, and no overlap). In Study 2 we found that signs with stronger resemblance with signs are more accurately guessed and are assigned higher iconicity ratings by non-signers than signs with low overlap. In addition, when more people produced a systematic gesture resembling a sign, they assigned higher iconicity ratings to that sign. Furthermore, participants had a bias to assume that signs represent actions and not objects. The similarities between some signs and gestures could be explained by deaf signers and hearing gesturers sharing a conceptual substrate that is rooted in our embodied experiences with the world. The finding that gestural knowledge can ease the interpretation of the meaning of novel signs and predicts iconicity ratings is in line with embodied accounts of cognition and the influence of prior knowledge to acquire new schemas. Through these mechanisms we propose that iconic gestures that overlap in form with signs may serve as some type of ‘manual cognates’ that help non-signing adults to break into a new language at first exposure.
Supplementary materialSupplementary Materials
Ozyurek, A., & Woll, B. (2019). Language in the visual modality: Cospeech gesture and sign language. In P. Hagoort (
Ed.), Human language: From genes and brain to behavior (pp. 67-83). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Pouw, W., & Dixon, J. A. (2019). Gesture networks: Introducing dynamic time warping and network analysis for the kinematic study of gesture ensembles. Discourse Processes. Advance online publication. doi:10.1080/0163853X.2019.1678967.
AbstractWe introduce applications of established methods in time-series and network analysis that we jointly apply here for the kinematic study of gesture ensembles. We define a gesture ensemble as the set of gestures produced during discourse by a single person or a group of persons. Here we are interested in how gestures kinematically relate to one another. We use a bivariate time-series analysis called dynamic time warping to assess how similar each gesture is to other gestures in the ensemble in terms of their velocity profiles (as well as studying multivariate cases with gesture velocity and speech amplitude envelope profiles). By relating each gesture event to all other gesture events produced in the ensemble, we obtain a weighted matrix that essentially represents a network of similarity relationships. We can therefore apply network analysis that can gauge, for example, how diverse or coherent certain gestures are with respect to the gesture ensemble. We believe these analyses promise to be of great value for gesture studies, as we can come to understand how low-level gesture features (kinematics of gesture) relate to the higher-order organizational structures present at the level of discourse.
Supplementary materialOpen Data OSF
Rissman, L., & Majid, A. (2019). Agency drives category structure in instrumental events. In A. K. Goel, C. M. Seifert, & C. Freksa (
Eds.), Proceedings of the 41st Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2019) (pp. 2661-2667). Montreal, QB: Cognitive Science Society.
AbstractThematic roles such as Agent and Instrument have a long-standing place in theories of event representation. Nonetheless, the structure of these categories has been difficult to determine. We investigated how instrumental events, such as someone slicing bread with a knife, are categorized in English. Speakers described a variety of typical and atypical instrumental events, and we determined the similarity structure of their descriptions using correspondence analysis. We found that events where the instrument is an extension of an intentional agent were most likely to elicit similar language, highlighting the importance of agency in structuring instrumental categories.
Rissman, L., & Majid, A. (2019). Thematic roles: Core knowledge or linguistic construct? Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 26(6), 1850-1869. doi:10.3758/s13423-019-01634-5.
AbstractThe status of thematic roles such as Agent and Patient in cognitive science is highly controversial: To some they are universal components of core knowledge, to others they are scholarly fictions without psychological reality. We address this debate by posing two critical questions: to what extent do humans represent events in terms of abstract role categories, and to what extent are these categories shaped by universal cognitive biases? We review a range of literature that contributes answers to these questions: psycholinguistic and event cognition experiments with adults, children, and infants; typological studies grounded in cross-linguistic data; and studies of emerging sign languages. We pose these questions for a variety of roles and find that the answers depend on the role. For Agents and Patients, there is strong evidence for abstract role categories and a universal bias to distinguish the two roles. For Goals and Recipients, we find clear evidence for abstraction but mixed evidence as to whether there is a bias to encode Goals and Recipients as part of one or two distinct categories. Finally, we discuss the Instrumental role and do not find clear evidence for either abstraction or universal biases to structure instrumental categories.
Schubotz, L., Ozyurek, A., & Holler, J. (2019). Age-related differences in multimodal recipient design: Younger, but not older adults, adapt speech and co-speech gestures to common ground. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 34(2), 254-271. doi:10.1080/23273798.2018.1527377.
AbstractSpeakers can adapt their speech and co-speech gestures based on knowledge shared with an addressee (common ground-based recipient design). Here, we investigate whether these adaptations are modulated by the speaker’s age and cognitive abilities. Younger and older participants narrated six short comic stories to a same-aged addressee. Half of each story was known to both participants, the other half only to the speaker. The two age groups did not differ in terms of the number of words and narrative events mentioned per narration, or in terms of gesture frequency, gesture rate, or percentage of events expressed multimodally. However, only the younger participants reduced the amount of verbal and gestural information when narrating mutually known as opposed to novel story content. Age-related differences in cognitive abilities did not predict these differences in common ground-based recipient design. The older participants’ communicative behaviour may therefore also reflect differences in social or pragmatic goals.
Ter Bekke, M., Ozyurek, A., & Ünal, E. (2019). Speaking but not gesturing predicts motion event memory within and across languages. In A. Goel, C. Seifert, & C. Freksa (
Eds.), Proceedings of the 41st Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2019) (pp. 2940-2946). Montreal, QB: Cognitive Science Society.
AbstractIn everyday life, people see, describe and remember motion events. We tested whether the type of motion event information (path or manner) encoded in speech and gesture predicts which information is remembered and if this varies across speakers of typologically different languages. We focus on intransitive motion events (e.g., a woman running to a tree) that are described differently in speech and co-speech gesture across languages, based on how these languages typologically encode manner and path information (Kita & Özyürek, 2003; Talmy, 1985). Speakers of Dutch (n = 19) and Turkish (n = 22) watched and described motion events. With a surprise (i.e. unexpected) recognition memory task, memory for manner and path components of these events was measured. Neither Dutch nor Turkish speakers’ memory for manner went above chance levels. However, we found a positive relation between path speech and path change detection: participants who described the path during encoding were more accurate at detecting changes to the path of an event during the memory task. In addition, the relation between path speech and path memory changed with native language: for Dutch speakers encoding path in speech was related to improved path memory, but for Turkish speakers no such relation existed. For both languages, co-speech gesture did not predict memory speakers. We discuss the implications of these findings for our understanding of the relations between speech, gesture, type of encoding in language and memory.
Trujillo, J. P., Vaitonyte, J., Simanova, I., & Ozyurek, A. (2019). Toward the markerless and automatic analysis of kinematic features: A toolkit for gesture and movement research. Behavior Research Methods, 51(2), 769-777. doi:10.3758/s13428-018-1086-8.
AbstractAction, gesture, and sign represent unique aspects of human communication that use form and movement to convey meaning. Researchers typically use manual coding of video data to characterize naturalistic, meaningful movements at various levels of description, but the availability of markerless motion-tracking technology allows for quantification of the kinematic features of gestures or any meaningful human movement. We present a novel protocol for extracting a set of kinematic features from movements recorded with Microsoft Kinect. Our protocol captures spatial and temporal features, such as height, velocity, submovements/strokes, and holds. This approach is based on studies of communicative actions and gestures and attempts to capture features that are consistently implicated as important kinematic aspects of communication. We provide open-source code for the protocol, a description of how the features are calculated, a validation of these features as quantified by our protocol versus manual coders, and a discussion of how the protocol can be applied. The protocol effectively quantifies kinematic features that are important in the production (e.g., characterizing different contexts) as well as the comprehension (e.g., used by addressees to understand intent and semantics) of manual acts. The protocol can also be integrated with qualitative analysis, allowing fast and objective demarcation of movement units, providing accurate coding even of complex movements. This can be useful to clinicians, as well as to researchers studying multimodal communication or human–robot interactions. By making this protocol available, we hope to provide a tool that can be applied to understanding meaningful movement characteristics in human communication.
Trujillo, J. P., Simanova, I., Bekkering, H., & Ozyurek, A. (2019). The communicative advantage: How kinematic signaling supports semantic comprehension. Psychological Research. Advance online publication. doi:10.1007/s00426-019-01198-y.
AbstractHumans are unique in their ability to communicate information through representational gestures which visually simulate an action (eg. moving hands as if opening a jar). Previous research indicates that the intention to communicate modulates the kinematics (e.g., velocity, size) of such gestures. If and how this modulation influences addressees’ comprehension of gestures have not been investigated. Here we ask whether communicative kinematic modulation enhances semantic comprehension (i.e., identification) of gestures. We additionally investigate whether any comprehension advantage is due to enhanced early identification or late identification. Participants (n = 20) watched videos of representational gestures produced in a more- (n = 60) or less-communicative (n = 60) context and performed a forced-choice recognition task. We tested the isolated role of kinematics by removing visibility of actor’s faces in Experiment I, and by reducing the stimuli to stick-light figures in Experiment II. Three video lengths were used to disentangle early identification from late identification. Accuracy and response time quantified main effects. Kinematic modulation was tested for correlations with task performance. We found higher gesture identification performance in more- compared to less-communicative gestures. However, early identification was only enhanced within a full visual context, while late identification occurred even when viewing isolated kinematics. Additionally, temporally segmented acts with more post-stroke holds were associated with higher accuracy. Our results demonstrate that communicative signaling, interacting with other visual cues, generally supports gesture identification, while kinematic modulation specifically enhances late identification in the absence of other cues. Results provide insights into mutual understanding processes as well as creating artificial communicative agents.
Supplementary materialSupplementary material
Trujillo, J. P., Simanova, I., Ozyurek, A., & Bekkering, H. (2019). Seeing the unexpected: How brains read communicative intent through kinematics. Cerebral Cortex. Advance online publication. doi:10.1093/cercor/bhz148.
AbstractSocial interaction requires us to recognize subtle cues in behavior, such as kinematic differences in actions and gestures produced with different social intentions. Neuroscientific studies indicate that the putative mirror neuron system (pMNS) in the premotor cortex and mentalizing system (MS) in the medial prefrontal cortex support inferences about contextually unusual actions. However, little is known regarding the brain dynamics of these systems when viewing communicatively exaggerated kinematics. In an event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging experiment, 28 participants viewed stick-light videos of pantomime gestures, recorded in a previous study, which contained varying degrees of communicative exaggeration. Participants made either social or nonsocial classifications of the videos. Using participant responses and pantomime kinematics, we modeled the probability of each video being classified as communicative. Interregion connectivity and activity were modulated by kinematic exaggeration, depending on the task. In the Social Task, communicativeness of the gesture increased activation of several pMNS and MS regions and modulated top-down coupling from the MS to the pMNS, but engagement of the pMNS and MS was not found in the nonsocial task. Our results suggest that expectation violations can be a key cue for inferring communicative intention, extending previous findings from wholly unexpected actions to more subtle social signaling.
Van Leeuwen, T. M., Van Petersen, E., Burghoorn, F., Dingemanse, M., & Van Lier, R. (2019). Autistic traits in synaesthesia: Atypical sensory sensitivity and enhanced perception of details. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series B: Biological Sciences. doi:10.1098/rstb.2019.0024.
AbstractIn synaesthetes specific sensory stimuli (e.g., black letters) elicit additional experiences (e.g. colour). Synaesthesia is highly prevalent among individuals with autism spectrum disorder but the mechanisms of this co-occurrence are not clear. We hypothesized autism and synaesthesia share atypical sensory sensitivity and perception. We assessed autistic traits, sensory sensitivity, and visual perception in two synaesthete populations. In Study 1, synaesthetes (N=79, of different types) scored higher than non-synaesthetes (N=76) on the Attention-to-detail and Social skills subscales of the Autism Spectrum Quotient indexing autistic traits, and on the Glasgow Sensory Questionnaire indexing sensory hypersensitivity and hyposensitivity which frequently occur in autism. Synaesthetes performed two local/global visual tasks because individuals with autism typically show a bias toward detail processing. In synaesthetes, elevated motion coherence thresholds suggested reduced global motion perception and higher accuracy on an embedded figures task suggested enhanced local perception. In Study 2 sequence-space synaesthetes (N=18) completed the same tasks. Questionnaire and embedded figures results qualitatively resembled Study 1 results but no significant group differences with non-synaesthetes (N=20) were obtained. Unexpectedly, sequence-space synaesthetes had reduced motion coherence thresholds. Altogether, our studies suggest atypical sensory sensitivity and a bias towards detail processing are shared features of synaesthesia and autism spectrum disorder.
Azar, Z., Backus, A., & Ozyurek, A. (2018). General and language specific factors influence reference tracking in speech and gesture in discourse. Discourse Processes, 56(7), 553-574. doi:10.1080/0163853X.2018.1519368.
AbstractReferent accessibility influences expressions in speech and gestures in similar ways. Speakers mostly use richer forms as noun phrases (NPs) in speech and gesture more when referents have low accessibility, whereas they use reduced forms such as pronouns more often and gesture less when referents have high accessibility. We investigated the relationships between speech and gesture during reference tracking in a pro-drop language—Turkish. Overt pronouns were not strongly associated with accessibility but with pragmatic context (i.e., marking similarity, contrast). Nevertheless, speakers gestured more when referents were re-introduced versus maintained and when referents were expressed with NPs versus pronouns. Pragmatic context did not influence gestures. Further, pronouns in low-accessibility contexts were accompanied with gestures—possibly for reference disambiguation—more often than previously found for non-pro-drop languages in such contexts. These findings enhance our understanding of the relationships between speech and gesture at the discourse level.
Dingemanse, M., Blythe, J., & Dirksmeyer, T. (2018). Formats for other-initiation of repair across languages: An exercise in pragmatic typology. In I. Nikolaeva (
Ed.), Linguistic Typology: Critical Concepts in Linguistics. Vol. 4 (pp. 322-357). London: Routledge.
AbstractIn conversation, people regularly deal with problems of speaking, hearing, and understanding. We report on a cross-linguistic investigation of the conversational structure of other-initiated repair (also known as collaborative repair, feedback, requests for clarification, or grounding sequences). We take stock of formats for initiating repair across languages (comparable to English huh?, who?, y’mean X?, etc.) and find that different languages make available a wide but remarkably similar range of linguistic resources for this function. We exploit the patterned variation as evidence for several underlying concerns addressed by repair initiation: characterising trouble, managing responsibility, and handling knowledge. The concerns do not always point in the same direction and thus provide participants in interaction with alternative principles for selecting one format over possible others. By comparing conversational structures across languages, this paper contributes to pragmatic typology: the typology of systems of language use and the principles that shape them.
Dingemanse, M. (2018). Redrawing the margins of language: Lessons from research on ideophones. Glossa: a journal of general linguistics, 3(1): 4. doi:10.5334/gjgl.444.
AbstractIdeophones (also known as expressives or mimetics, and including onomatopoeia) have been systematically studied in linguistics since the 1850s, when they were first described as a lexical class of vivid sensory words in West-African languages. This paper surveys the research history of ideophones, from its roots in African linguistics to its fruits in general linguistics and typology around the globe. It shows that despite a recurrent narrative of marginalisation, work on ideophones has made an impact in many areas of linguistics, from theories of phonological features to typologies of manner and motion, and from sound symbolism to sensory language. Due to their hybrid nature as gradient vocal gestures that grow roots in discrete linguistic systems, ideophones provide opportunities to reframe typological questions, reconsider the role of language ideology in linguistic scholarship, and rethink the margins of language. With ideophones increasingly being brought into the fold of the language sciences, this review synthesises past theoretical insights and empirical findings in order to enable future work to build on them.
Drijvers, L., Ozyurek, A., & Jensen, O. (2018). Alpha and beta oscillations index semantic congruency between speech and gestures in clear and degraded speech. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 30(8), 1086-1097. doi:10.1162/jocn_a_01301.
AbstractPrevious work revealed that visual semantic information conveyed by gestures can enhance degraded speech comprehension, but the mechanisms underlying these integration processes under adverse listening conditions remain poorly understood. We used MEG to investigate how oscillatory dynamics support speech–gesture integration when integration load is manipulated by auditory (e.g., speech degradation) and visual semantic (e.g., gesture congruency) factors. Participants were presented with videos of an actress uttering an action verb in clear or degraded speech, accompanied by a matching (mixing gesture + “mixing”) or mismatching (drinking gesture + “walking”) gesture. In clear speech, alpha/beta power was more suppressed in the left inferior frontal gyrus and motor and visual cortices when integration load increased in response to mismatching versus matching gestures. In degraded speech, beta power was less suppressed over posterior STS and medial temporal lobe for mismatching compared with matching gestures, showing that integration load was lowest when speech was degraded and mismatching gestures could not be integrated and disambiguate the degraded signal. Our results thus provide novel insights on how low-frequency oscillatory modulations in different parts of the cortex support the semantic audiovisual integration of gestures in clear and degraded speech: When speech is clear, the left inferior frontal gyrus and motor and visual cortices engage because higher-level semantic information increases semantic integration load. When speech is degraded, posterior STS/middle temporal gyrus and medial temporal lobe are less engaged because integration load is lowest when visual semantic information does not aid lexical retrieval and speech and gestures cannot be integrated.
Drijvers, L., & Ozyurek, A. (2018). Native language status of the listener modulates the neural integration of speech and iconic gestures in clear and adverse listening conditions. Brain and Language, 177-178, 7-17. doi:10.1016/j.bandl.2018.01.003.
AbstractNative listeners neurally integrate iconic gestures with speech, which can enhance degraded speech comprehension. However, it is unknown how non-native listeners neurally integrate speech and gestures, as they might process visual semantic context differently than natives. We recorded EEG while native and highly-proficient non-native listeners watched videos of an actress uttering an action verb in clear or degraded speech, accompanied by a matching ('to drive'+driving gesture) or mismatching gesture ('to drink'+mixing gesture). Degraded speech elicited an enhanced N400 amplitude compared to clear speech in both groups, revealing an increase in neural resources needed to resolve the spoken input. A larger N400 effect was found in clear speech for non-natives compared to natives, but in degraded speech only for natives. Non-native listeners might thus process gesture more strongly than natives when speech is clear, but need more auditory cues to facilitate access to gestural semantic information when speech is degraded.
Drijvers, L., Ozyurek, A., & Jensen, O. (2018). Hearing and seeing meaning in noise: Alpha, beta and gamma oscillations predict gestural enhancement of degraded speech comprehension. Human Brain Mapping, 39(5), 2075-2087. doi:10.1002/hbm.23987.
AbstractDuring face-to-face communication, listeners integrate speech with gestures. The semantic information conveyed by iconic gestures (e.g., a drinking gesture) can aid speech comprehension in adverse listening conditions. In this magnetoencephalography (MEG) study, we investigated the spatiotemporal neural oscillatory activity associated with gestural enhancement of degraded speech comprehension. Participants watched videos of an actress uttering clear or degraded speech, accompanied by a gesture or not and completed a cued-recall task after watching every video. When gestures semantically disambiguated degraded speech comprehension, an alpha and beta power suppression and a gamma power increase revealed engagement and active processing in the hand-area of the motor cortex, the extended language network (LIFG/pSTS/STG/MTG), medial temporal lobe, and occipital regions. These observed low- and high-frequency oscillatory modulations in these areas support general unification, integration and lexical access processes during online language comprehension, and simulation of and increased visual attention to manual gestures over time. All individual oscillatory power modulations associated with gestural enhancement of degraded speech comprehension predicted a listener's correct disambiguation of the degraded verb after watching the videos. Our results thus go beyond the previously proposed role of oscillatory dynamics in unimodal degraded speech comprehension and provide first evidence for the role of low- and high-frequency oscillations in predicting the integration of auditory and visual information at a semantic level.
Eielts, C., Pouw, W., Ouwehand, K., Van Gog, T., Zwaan, R. A., & Paas, F. (2018). Co-thought gesturing supports more complex problem solving in subjects with lower visual working-memory capacity. Psychological Research. Advance online publication. doi:10.1007/s00426-018-1065-9.
AbstractDuring silent problem solving, hand gestures arise that have no communicative intent. The role of such co-thought gestures in cognition has been understudied in cognitive research as compared to co-speech gestures. We investigated whether gesticulation during silent problem solving supported subsequent performance in a Tower of Hanoi problem-solving task, in relation to visual working-memory capacity and task complexity. Seventy-six participants were assigned to either an instructed gesture condition or a condition that allowed them to gesture, but without explicit instructions to do so. This resulted in three gesture groups: (1) non-gesturing; (2) spontaneous gesturing; (3) instructed gesturing. In line with the embedded/extended cognition perspective on gesture, gesturing benefited complex problem-solving performance for participants with a lower visual working-memory capacity, but not for participants with a lower spatial working-memory capacity.
Floyd, S., Rossi, G., Baranova, J., Blythe, J., Dingemanse, M., Kendrick, K. H., Zinken, J., & Enfield, N. J. (2018). Universals and cultural diversity in the expression of gratitude. Royal Society Open Science, 5: 180391. doi:10.1098/rsos.180391.
AbstractGratitude is argued to have evolved to motivate and maintain social reciprocity among people, and to be linked to a wide range of positive effects — social, psychological, and even physical. But is socially reciprocal behaviour dependent on the expression of gratitude, for example by saying "thank you" as in English? Current research has not included cross-cultural elements, and has tended to conflate gratitude as an emotion with gratitude as a linguistic practice, as might appear to be the case in English. Here we ask to what extent people actually express gratitude in different societies by focussing on episodes of everyday life where someone obtains a good, service, or support from another, and comparing these episodes across eight languages from five continents. What we find is that expressions of gratitude in these episodes are remarkably rare, suggesting that social reciprocity in everyday life relies on tacit understandings of people’s rights and duties surrounding mutual assistance and collaboration. At the same time, we also find minor cross-cultural variation, with slightly higher rates in Western European languages English and Italian, showing that universal tendencies of social reciprocity should not be conflated with more culturally variable practices of expressing gratitude. Our study complements previous experimental and culture-specific research on social reciprocity with a systematic comparison of audiovisual corpora of naturally occurring social interaction from different cultures from around the world.
Majid, A., Roberts, S. G., Cilissen, L., Emmorey, K., Nicodemus, B., O'Grady, L., Woll, B., LeLan, B., De Sousa, H., Cansler, B. L., Shayan, S., De Vos, C., Senft, G., Enfield, N. J., Razak, R. A., Fedden, S., Tufvesson, S., Dingemanse, M., Ozturk, O., Brown, P., Hill, C., Le Guen, O., Hirtzel, V., Van Gijn, R., Sicoli, M. A., & Levinson, S. C. (2018). Differential coding of perception in the world’s languages. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 115(45), 11369-11376. doi:10.1073/pnas.1720419115.
AbstractIs there a universal hierarchy of the senses, such that some senses (e.g., vision) are more accessible to consciousness and linguistic description than others (e.g., smell)? The long-standing presumption in Western thought has been that vision and audition are more objective than the other senses, serving as the basis of knowledge and understanding, whereas touch, taste, and smell are crude and of little value. This predicts that humans ought to be better at communicating about sight and hearing than the other senses, and decades of work based on English and related languages certainly suggests this is true. However, how well does this reflect the diversity of languages and communities worldwide? To test whether there is a universal hierarchy of the senses, stimuli from the five basic senses were used to elicit descriptions in 20 diverse languages, including 3 unrelated sign languages. We found that languages differ fundamentally in which sensory domains they linguistically code systematically, and how they do so. The tendency for better coding in some domains can be explained in part by cultural preoccupations. Although languages seem free to elaborate specific sensory domains, some general tendencies emerge: for example, with some exceptions, smell is poorly coded. The surprise is that, despite the gradual phylogenetic accumulation of the senses, and the imbalances in the neural tissue dedicated to them, no single hierarchy of the senses imposes itself upon language.
Ozyurek, A. (2018). Cross-linguistic variation in children’s multimodal utterances. In M. Hickmann, E. Veneziano, & H. Jisa (
Eds.), Sources of variation in first language acquisition: Languages, contexts, and learners (pp. 123-138). Amsterdam: Benjamins.
AbstractOur ability to use language is multimodal and requires tight coordination between what is expressed in speech and in gesture, such as pointing or iconic gestures that convey semantic, syntactic and pragmatic information related to speakers’ messages. Interestingly, what is expressed in gesture and how it is coordinated with speech differs in speakers of different languages. This paper discusses recent findings on the development of children’s multimodal expressions taking cross-linguistic variation into account. Although some aspects of speech-gesture development show language-specificity from an early age, it might still take children until nine years of age to exhibit fully adult patterns of cross-linguistic variation. These findings reveal insights about how children coordinate different levels of representations given that their development is constrained by patterns that are specific to their languages.
Ozyurek, A. (2018). Role of gesture in language processing: Toward a unified account for production and comprehension. In S.-A. Rueschemeyer, & M. G. Gaskell (
Eds.), Oxford Handbook of Psycholinguistics (2nd ed., pp. 592-607). Oxford: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/oxfordhb/9780198786825.013.25.
AbstractUse of language in face-to-face context is multimodal. Production and perception of speech take place in the context of visual articulators such as lips, face, or hand gestures which convey relevant information to what is expressed in speech at different levels of language. While lips convey information at the phonological level, gestures contribute to semantic, pragmatic, and syntactic information, as well as to discourse cohesion. This chapter overviews recent findings showing that speech and gesture (e.g. a drinking gesture as someone says, “Would you like a drink?”) interact during production and comprehension of language at the behavioral, cognitive, and neural levels. Implications of these findings for current psycholinguistic theories and how they can be expanded to consider the multimodal context of language processing are discussed.
Trujillo, J. P., Simanova, I., Bekkering, H., & Ozyurek, A. (2018). Communicative intent modulates production and perception of actions and gestures: A Kinect study. Cognition, 180, 38-51. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2018.04.003.
AbstractActions may be used to directly act on the world around us, or as a means of communication. Effective communication requires the addressee to recognize the act as being communicative. Humans are sensitive to ostensive communicative cues, such as direct eye gaze (Csibra & Gergely, 2009). However, there may be additional cues present in the action or gesture itself. Here we investigate features that characterize the initiation of a communicative interaction in both production and comprehension. We asked 40 participants to perform 31 pairs of object-directed actions and representational gestures in more- or less- communicative contexts. Data were collected using motion capture technology for kinematics and video recording for eye-gaze. With these data, we focused on two issues. First, if and how actions and gestures are systematically modulated when performed in a communicative context. Second, if observers exploit such kinematic information to classify an act as communicative. Our study showed that during production the communicative context modulates space–time dimensions of kinematics and elicits an increase in addressee-directed eye-gaze. Naïve participants detected communicative intent in actions and gestures preferentially using eye-gaze information, only utilizing kinematic information when eye-gaze was unavailable. Our study highlights the general communicative modulation of action and gesture kinematics during production but also shows that addressees only exploit this modulation to recognize communicative intention in the absence of eye-gaze. We discuss these findings in terms of distinctive but potentially overlapping functions of addressee directed eye-gaze and kinematic modulations within the wider context of human communication and learning.
Azar, Z., Backus, A., & Ozyurek, A. (2017). Highly proficient bilinguals maintain language-specific pragmatic constraints on pronouns: Evidence from speech and gesture. In G. Gunzelmann, A. Howes, T. Tenbrink, & E. Davelaar (
Eds.), Proceedings of the 39th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2017) (pp. 81-86). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.
AbstractThe use of subject pronouns by bilingual speakers using both a pro-drop and a non-pro-drop language (e.g. Spanish heritage speakers in the USA) is a well-studied topic in research on cross-linguistic influence in language contact situations. Previous studies looking at bilinguals with different proficiency levels have yielded conflicting results on whether there is transfer from the non-pro-drop patterns to the pro-drop language. Additionally, previous research has focused on speech patterns only. In this paper, we study the two modalities of language, speech and gesture, and ask whether and how they reveal cross-linguistic influence on the use of subject pronouns in discourse. We focus on elicited narratives from heritage speakers of Turkish in the Netherlands, in both Turkish (pro-drop) and Dutch (non-pro-drop), as well as from monolingual control groups. The use of pronouns was not very common in monolingual Turkish narratives and was constrained by the pragmatic contexts, unlike in Dutch. Furthermore, Turkish pronouns were more likely to be accompanied by localized gestures than Dutch pronouns, presumably because pronouns in Turkish are pragmatically marked forms. We did not find any cross-linguistic influence in bilingual speech or gesture patterns, in line with studies (speech only) of highly proficient bilinguals. We therefore suggest that speech and gesture parallel each other not only in monolingual but also in bilingual production. Highly proficient heritage speakers who have been exposed to diverse linguistic and gestural patterns of each language from early on maintain monolingual patterns of pragmatic constraints on the use of pronouns multimodally.
Drijvers, L., & Ozyurek, A. (2017). Visual context enhanced: The joint contribution of iconic gestures and visible speech to degraded speech comprehension. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 60, 212-222. doi:10.1044/2016_JSLHR-H-16-0101.
AbstractPurpose This study investigated whether and to what extent iconic co-speech gestures contribute to information from visible speech to enhance degraded speech comprehension at different levels of noise-vocoding. Previous studies of the contributions of these 2 visual articulators to speech comprehension have only been performed separately. Method Twenty participants watched videos of an actress uttering an action verb and completed a free-recall task. The videos were presented in 3 speech conditions (2-band noise-vocoding, 6-band noise-vocoding, clear), 3 multimodal conditions (speech + lips blurred, speech + visible speech, speech + visible speech + gesture), and 2 visual-only conditions (visible speech, visible speech + gesture). Results Accuracy levels were higher when both visual articulators were present compared with 1 or none. The enhancement effects of (a) visible speech, (b) gestural information on top of visible speech, and (c) both visible speech and iconic gestures were larger in 6-band than 2-band noise-vocoding or visual-only conditions. Gestural enhancement in 2-band noise-vocoding did not differ from gestural enhancement in visual-only conditions.
Karadöller, D. Z., Sumer, B., & Ozyurek, A. (2017). Effects of delayed language exposure on spatial language acquisition by signing children and adults. In G. Gunzelmann, A. Howes, T. Tenbrink, & E. Davelaar (
Eds.), Proceedings of the 39th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2017) (pp. 2372-2376). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.
AbstractDeaf children born to hearing parents are exposed to language input quite late, which has long-lasting effects on language production. Previous studies with deaf individuals mostly focused on linguistic expressions of motion events, which have several event components. We do not know if similar effects emerge in simple events such as descriptions of spatial configurations of objects. Moreover, previous data mainly come from late adult signers. There is not much known about language development of late signing children soon after learning sign language. We compared simple event descriptions of late signers of Turkish Sign Language (adults, children) to age-matched native signers. Our results indicate that while late signers in both age groups are native-like in frequency of expressing a relational encoding, they lag behind native signers in using morphologically complex linguistic forms compared to other simple forms. Late signing children perform similar to adults and thus showed no development over time.
Ketrez, F. N., Kuntay, A. C., Ozcaliskan, S., & Ozyurek, A. (
Eds.). (2017). Social environment and cognition in language development: Studies in honor of Ayhan Aksu-Koc. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
AbstractLanguage development is driven by multiple factors involving both the individual child and the environments that surround the child. The chapters in this volume highlight several such factors as potential contributors to developmental change, including factors that examine the role of immediate social environment (i.e., parent SES, parent and sibling input, peer interaction) and factors that focus on the child’s own cognitive and social development, such as the acquisition of theory of mind, event knowledge, and memory. The discussion of the different factors is presented largely from a crosslinguistic framework, using a multimodal perspective (speech, gesture, sign). The book celebrates the scholarly contributions of Prof. Ayhan Aksu-Koç – a pioneer in the study of crosslinguistic variation in language acquisition, particularly in the domain of evidentiality and theory of mind. This book will serve as an important resource for researchers in the field of developmental psychology, cognitive science, and linguistics across the globe
Ortega, G., Schiefner, A., & Ozyurek, A. (2017). Speakers’ gestures predict the meaning and perception of iconicity in signs. In G. Gunzelmann, A. Howe, & T. Tenbrink (
Eds.), Proceedings of the 39th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2017) (pp. 889-894). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.
AbstractSign languages stand out in that there is high prevalence of conventionalised linguistic forms that map directly to their referent (i.e., iconic). Hearing adults show low performance when asked to guess the meaning of iconic signs suggesting that their iconic features are largely inaccessible to them. However, it has not been investigated whether speakers’ gestures, which also share the property of iconicity, may assist non-signers in guessing the meaning of signs. Results from a pantomime generation task (Study 1) show that speakers’ gestures exhibit a high degree of systematicity, and share different degrees of form overlap with signs (full, partial, and no overlap). Study 2 shows that signs with full and partial overlap are more accurately guessed and are assigned higher iconicity ratings than signs with no overlap. Deaf and hearing adults converge in their iconic depictions for some concepts due to the shared conceptual knowledge and manual-visual modality.
Ortega, G., Sumer, B., & Ozyurek, A. (2017). Type of iconicity matters in the vocabulary development of signing children. Developmental Psychology, 53(1), 89-99. doi:10.1037/dev0000161.
AbstractRecent research on signed as well as spoken language shows that the iconic features of the target language might play a role in language development. Here, we ask further whether different types of iconic depictions modulate children’s preferences for certain types of sign-referent links during vocabulary development in sign language. Results from a picture description task indicate that lexical signs with 2 possible variants are used in different proportions by deaf signers from different age groups. While preschool and school-age children favored variants representing actions associated with their referent (e.g., a writing hand for the sign PEN), adults preferred variants representing the perceptual features of those objects (e.g., upward index finger representing a thin, elongated object for the sign PEN). Deaf parents interacting with their children, however, used action- and perceptual-based variants in equal proportion and favored action variants more than adults signing to other adults. We propose that when children are confronted with 2 variants for the same concept, they initially prefer action-based variants because they give them the opportunity to link a linguistic label to familiar schemas linked to their action/motor experiences. Our results echo findings showing a bias for action-based depictions in the development of iconic co-speech gestures suggesting a modality bias for such representations during development.
Ozyurek, A. (2017). Function and processing of gesture in the context of language. In R. B. Church, M. W. Alibali, & S. D. Kelly (
Eds.), Why gesture? How the hands function in speaking, thinking and communicating (pp. 39-58). Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing.
AbstractMost research focuses function of gesture independent of its link to the speech it accompanies and the coexpressive functions it has together with speech. This chapter instead approaches gesture in relation to its communicative function in relation to speech, and demonstrates how it is shaped by the linguistic encoding of a speaker’s message. Drawing on crosslinguistic research with adults and children as well as bilinguals on iconic/pointing gesture production it shows that the specific language speakers use modulates the rate and the shape of the iconic gesture production of the same events. The findings challenge the claims aiming to understand gesture’s function for “thinking only” in adults and during development.
Peeters, D., Snijders, T. M., Hagoort, P., & Ozyurek, A. (2017). Linking language to the visual world: Neural correlates of comprehending verbal reference to objects through pointing and visual cues. Neuropsychologia, 95, 21-29. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2016.12.004.
AbstractIn everyday communication speakers often refer in speech and/or gesture to objects in their immediate environment, thereby shifting their addressee's attention to an intended referent. The neurobiological infrastructure involved in the comprehension of such basic multimodal communicative acts remains unclear. In an event-related fMRI study, we presented participants with pictures of a speaker and two objects while they concurrently listened to her speech. In each picture, one of the objects was singled out, either through the speaker's index-finger pointing gesture or through a visual cue that made the object perceptually more salient in the absence of gesture. A mismatch (compared to a match) between speech and the object singled out by the speaker's pointing gesture led to enhanced activation in left IFG and bilateral pMTG, showing the importance of these areas in conceptual matching between speech and referent. Moreover, a match (compared to a mismatch) between speech and the object made salient through a visual cue led to enhanced activation in the mentalizing system, arguably reflecting an attempt to converge on a jointly attended referent in the absence of pointing. These findings shed new light on the neurobiological underpinnings of the core communicative process of comprehending a speaker's multimodal referential act and stress the power of pointing as an important natural device to link speech to objects.
Sumer, B., Perniss, P. M., & Ozyurek, A. (2017). A first study on the development of spatial viewpoint in sign language acquisition: The case of Turkish Sign Language. In F. N. Ketrez, A. C. Kuntay, S. Ozcalıskan, & A. Ozyurek (
Eds.), Social Environment and Cognition in Language Development: Studies in Honor of Ayhan Aksu-Koc (pp. 223-240). Amsterdam: John Benjamins. doi:10.1075/tilar.21.14sum.
AbstractThe current study examines, for the first time, the viewpoint preferences of signing children in expressing spatial relations that require imposing a viewpoint (left-right, front-behind). We elicited spatial descriptions from deaf children (4–9 years of age) acquiring Turkish Sign Language (TİD) natively from their deaf parents and from adult native signers of TİD. Adults produced these spatial descriptions from their own viewpoint and from that of their addressee depending on whether the objects were located on the lateral or the sagittal axis. TİD-acquiring children, on the other hand, described all spatial configurations from their own viewpoint. Differences were also found between children and adults in the type of linguistic devices and how they are used to express such spatial relations.
Azar, Z., Backus, A., & Ozyurek, A. (2016). Pragmatic relativity: Gender and context affect the use of personal pronouns in discourse differentially across languages. In A. Papafragou, D. Grodner, D. Mirman, & J. Trueswell (
Eds.), Proceedings of the 38th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2016) (pp. 1295-1300). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.
AbstractSpeakers use differential referring expressions in pragmatically appropriate ways to produce coherent narratives. Languages, however, differ in a) whether REs as arguments can be dropped and b) whether personal pronouns encode gender. We examine two languages that differ from each other in these two aspects and ask whether the co-reference context and the gender encoding options affect the use of REs differentially. We elicited narratives from Dutch and Turkish speakers about two types of three-person events, one including people of the same and the other of mixed-gender. Speakers re-introduced referents into the discourse with fuller forms (NPs) and maintained them with reduced forms (overt or null pronoun). Turkish speakers used pronouns mainly to mark emphasis and only Dutch speakers used pronouns differentially across the two types of videos. We argue that linguistic possibilities available in languages tune speakers into taking different principles into account to produce pragmatically coherent narratives
Dimitrova, D. V., Chu, M., Wang, L., Ozyurek, A., & Hagoort, P. (2016). Beat that word: How listeners integrate beat gesture and focus in multimodal speech discourse. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 28(9), 1255-1269. doi:10.1162/jocn_a_00963.
AbstractCommunication is facilitated when listeners allocate their attention to important information (focus) in the message, a process called "information structure." Linguistic cues like the preceding context and pitch accent help listeners to identify focused information. In multimodal communication, relevant information can be emphasized by nonverbal cues like beat gestures, which represent rhythmic nonmeaningful hand movements. Recent studies have found that linguistic and nonverbal attention cues are integrated independently in single sentences. However, it is possible that these two cues interact when information is embedded in context, because context allows listeners to predict what information is important. In an ERP study, we tested this hypothesis and asked listeners to view videos capturing a dialogue. In the critical sentence, focused and nonfocused words were accompanied by beat gestures, grooming hand movements, or no gestures. ERP results showed that focused words are processed more attentively than nonfocused words as reflected in an N1 and P300 component. Hand movements also captured attention and elicited a P300 component. Importantly, beat gesture and focus interacted in a late time window of 600-900 msec relative to target word onset, giving rise to a late positivity when nonfocused words were accompanied by beat gestures. Our results show that listeners integrate beat gesture with the focus of the message and that integration costs arise when beat gesture falls on nonfocused information. This suggests that beat gestures fulfill a unique focusing function in multimodal discourse processing and that they have to be integrated with the information structure of the message.
Ortega, G., & Ozyurek, A. (2016). Generalisable patterns of gesture distinguish semantic categories in communication without language. In A. Papafragou, D. Grodner, D. Mirman, & J. Trueswell (
Eds.), Proceedings of the 38th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2016) (pp. 1182-1187). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.
AbstractThere is a long-standing assumption that gestural forms are geared by a set of modes of representation (acting, representing, drawing, moulding) with each technique expressing speakers’ focus of attention on specific aspects of referents (Müller, 2013). Beyond different taxonomies describing the modes of representation, it remains unclear what factors motivate certain depicting techniques over others. Results from a pantomime generation task show that pantomimes are not entirely idiosyncratic but rather follow generalisable patterns constrained by their semantic category. We show that a) specific modes of representations are preferred for certain objects (acting for manipulable objects and drawing for non-manipulable objects); and b) that use and ordering of deictics and modes of representation operate in tandem to distinguish between semantically related concepts (e.g., “to drink” vs “mug”). This study provides yet more evidence that our ability to communicate through silent gesture reveals systematic ways to describe events and objects around us
Sumer, B., & Ozyurek, A. (2016). İşitme Engelli Çocukların Dil Edinimi [Sign language acquisition by deaf children]. In C. Aydin, T. Goksun, A. Kuntay, & D. Tahiroglu (
Eds.), Aklın Çocuk Hali: Zihin Gelişimi Araştırmaları [Research on Cognitive Development] (pp. 365-388). Istanbul: Koc University Press.
Sumer, B., Zwitserlood, I., Perniss, P., & Ozyurek, A. (2016). Yer Bildiren İfadelerin Türkçe ve Türk İşaret Dili’nde (TİD) Çocuklar Tarafından Edinimi [The acqusition of spatial relations by children in Turkish and Turkish Sign Language (TID)]. In E. Arik (
Ed.), Ellerle Konuşmak: Türk İşaret Dili Araştırmaları [Speaking with hands: Studies on Turkish Sign Language] (pp. 157-182). Istanbul: Koç University Press.
Sumer, B., Perniss, P. M., & Ozyurek, A. (2016). Viewpoint preferences in signing children's spatial descriptions. In J. Scott, & D. Waughtal (
Eds.), Proceedings of the 40th Annual Boston University Conference on Language Development (BUCLD 40) (pp. 360-374). Boston, MA: Cascadilla Press.
Azar, Z., & Ozyurek, A. (2015). Discourse Management: Reference tracking in speech and gesture in Turkish narratives. Dutch Journal of Applied Linguistics, 4(2), 222-240. doi:10.1075/dujal.4.2.06aza.
AbstractSpeakers achieve coherence in discourse by alternating between differential lexical forms e.g. noun phrase, pronoun, and null form in accordance with the accessibility of the entities they refer to, i.e. whether they introduce an entity into discourse for the first time or continue referring to an entity they already mentioned before. Moreover, tracking of entities in discourse is a multimodal phenomenon. Studies show that speakers are sensitive to the informational structure of discourse and use fuller forms (e.g. full noun phrases) in speech and gesture more when re-introducing an entity while they use attenuated forms (e.g. pronouns) in speech and gesture less when maintaining a referent. However, those studies focus mainly on non-pro-drop languages (e.g. English, German and French). The present study investigates whether the same pattern holds for pro-drop languages. It draws data from adult native speakers of Turkish using elicited narratives. We find that Turkish speakers mostly use fuller forms to code subject referents in re-introduction context and the null form in maintenance context and they point to gesture space for referents more in re-introduction context compared maintained context. Hence we provide supportive evidence for the reverse correlation between the accessibility of a discourse referent and its coding in speech and gesture. We also find that, as a novel contribution, third person pronoun is used in re-introduction context only when the referent was previously mentioned as the object argument of the immediately preceding clause.
Goldin-Meadow, S., Namboodiripad, S., Mylander, C., Ozyurek, A., & Sancar, B. (2015). The resilience of structure built around the predicate: Homesign gesture systems in Turkish and American deaf children. Journal of Cognition and Development, 16, 55-80. doi:10.1080/15248372.2013.803970.
AbstractDeaf children whose hearing losses prevent them from accessing spoken language and whose hearing parents have not exposed them to sign language develop gesture systems, called homesigns, which have many of the properties of natural language—the so-called resilient properties of language. We explored the resilience of structure built around the predicate—in particular, how manner and path are mapped onto the verb—in homesign systems developed by deaf children in Turkey and the United States. We also asked whether the Turkish homesigners exhibit sentence-level structures previously identified as resilient in American and Chinese homesigners. We found that the Turkish and American deaf children used not only the same production probability and ordering patterns to indicate who does what to whom, but also used the same segmentation and conflation patterns to package manner and path. The gestures that the hearing parents produced did not, for the most part, display the patterns found in the children's gestures. Although cospeech gesture may provide the building blocks for homesign, it does not provide the blueprint for these resilient properties of language.
Holler, J., Kokal, I., Toni, I., Hagoort, P., Kelly, S. D., & Ozyurek, A. (2015). Eye’m talking to you: Speakers’ gaze direction modulates co-speech gesture processing in the right MTG. Social Cognitive & Affective Neuroscience, 10, 255-261. doi:10.1093/scan/nsu047.
AbstractRecipients process information from speech and co-speech gestures, but it is currently unknown how this processing is influenced by the presence of other important social cues, especially gaze direction, a marker of communicative intent. Such cues may modulate neural activity in regions associated either with the processing of ostensive cues, such as eye gaze, or with the processing of semantic information, provided by speech and gesture. Participants were scanned (fMRI) while taking part in triadic communication involving two recipients and a speaker. The speaker uttered sentences that were and were not accompanied by complementary iconic gestures. Crucially, the speaker alternated her gaze direction, thus creating two recipient roles: addressed (direct gaze) vs unaddressed (averted gaze) recipient. The comprehension of Speech&Gesture relative to SpeechOnly utterances recruited middle occipital, middle temporal and inferior frontal gyri, bilaterally. The calcarine sulcus and posterior cingulate cortex were sensitive to differences between direct and averted gaze. Most importantly, Speech&Gesture utterances, but not SpeechOnly utterances, produced additional activity in the right middle temporal gyrus when participants were addressed. Marking communicative intent with gaze direction modulates the processing of speech–gesture utterances in cerebral areas typically associated with the semantic processing of multi-modal communicative acts.
Kelly, S., Healey, M., Ozyurek, A., & Holler, J. (2015). The processing of speech, gesture and action during language comprehension. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 22, 517-523. doi:10.3758/s13423-014-0681-7.
AbstractHand gestures and speech form a single integrated system of meaning during language comprehension, but is gesture processed with speech in a unique fashion? We had subjects watch multimodal videos that presented auditory (words) and visual (gestures and actions on objects) information. Half of the subjects related the audio information to a written prime presented before the video, and the other half related the visual information to the written prime. For half of the multimodal video stimuli, the audio and visual information contents were congruent, and for the other half, they were incongruent. For all subjects, stimuli in which the gestures and actions were incongruent with the speech produced more errors and longer response times than did stimuli that were congruent, but this effect was less prominent for speech-action stimuli than for speech-gesture stimuli. However, subjects focusing on visual targets were more accurate when processing actions than gestures. These results suggest that although actions may be easier to process than gestures, gestures may be more tightly tied to the processing of accompanying speech.
Ozyurek, A., Furman, R., & Goldin-Meadow, S. (2015). On the way to language: Event segmentation in homesign and gesture. Journal of Child Language, 42, 64-94. doi:10.1017/S0305000913000512.
AbstractLanguages typically express semantic components of motion events such as manner (roll) and path (down) in separate lexical items. We explore how these combinatorial possibilities of language arise by focusing on (i) gestures produced by deaf children who lack access to input from a conventional language (homesign); (ii) gestures produced by hearing adults and children while speaking; and (iii) gestures used by hearing adults without speech when asked to do so in elicited descriptions of motion events with simultaneous manner and path. Homesigners tended to conflate manner and path in one gesture, but also used a mixed form, adding a manner and/or path gesture to the conflated form sequentially. Hearing speakers, with or without speech, used the conflated form, gestured manner, or path, but rarely used the mixed form. Mixed form may serve as an intermediate structure on the way to the discrete and sequenced forms found in natural languages.
Peeters, D., Chu, M., Holler, J., Hagoort, P., & Ozyurek, A. (2015). Electrophysiological and kinematic correlates of communicative intent in the planning and production of pointing gestures and speech. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 27(12), 2352-2368. doi:10.1162/jocn_a_00865.
AbstractIn everyday human communication, we often express our communicative intentions by manually pointing out referents in the material world around us to an addressee, often in tight synchronization with referential speech. This study investigated whether and how the kinematic form of index finger pointing gestures is shaped by the gesturer's communicative intentions and how this is modulated by the presence of concurrently produced speech. Furthermore, we explored the neural mechanisms underpinning the planning of communicative pointing gestures and speech. Two experiments were carried out in which participants pointed at referents for an addressee while the informativeness of their gestures and speech was varied. Kinematic and electrophysiological data were recorded online. It was found that participants prolonged the duration of the stroke and poststroke hold phase of their gesture to be more communicative, in particular when the gesture was carrying the main informational burden in their multimodal utterance. Frontal and P300 effects in the ERPs suggested the importance of intentional and modality-independent attentional mechanisms during the planning phase of informative pointing gestures. These findings contribute to a better understanding of the complex interplay between action, attention, intention, and language in the production of pointing gestures, a communicative act core to human interaction.
Peeters, D., Hagoort, P., & Ozyurek, A. (2015). Electrophysiological evidence for the role of shared space in online comprehension of spatial demonstratives. Cognition, 136, 64-84. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2014.10.010.
AbstractA fundamental property of language is that it can be used to refer to entities in the extra-linguistic physical context of a conversation in order to establish a joint focus of attention on a referent. Typological and psycholinguistic work across a wide range of languages has put forward at least two different theoretical views on demonstrative reference. Here we contrasted and tested these two accounts by investigating the electrophysiological brain activity underlying the construction of indexical meaning in comprehension. In two EEG experiments, participants watched pictures of a speaker who referred to one of two objects using speech and an index-finger pointing gesture. In contrast with separately collected native speakers’ linguistic intuitions, N400 effects showed a preference for a proximal demonstrative when speaker and addressee were in a face-to-face orientation and all possible referents were located in the shared space between them, irrespective of the physical proximity of the referent to the speaker. These findings reject egocentric proximity-based accounts of demonstrative reference, support a sociocentric approach to deixis, suggest that interlocutors construe a shared space during conversation, and imply that the psychological proximity of a referent may be more important than its physical proximity.
Peeters, D., Snijders, T. M., Hagoort, P., & Ozyurek, A. (2015). The role of left inferior frontal Gyrus in the integration of point- ing gestures and speech. In G. Ferré, & M. Tutton (
Eds.), Proceedings of the4th GESPIN - Gesture & Speech in Interaction Conference. Nantes: Université de Nantes.
AbstractComprehension of pointing gestures is fundamental to human communication. However, the neural mechanisms that subserve the integration of pointing gestures and speech in visual contexts in comprehension are unclear. Here we present the results of an fMRI study in which participants watched images of an actor pointing at an object while they listened to her referential speech. The use of a mismatch paradigm revealed that the semantic unication of pointing gesture and speech in a triadic context recruits left inferior frontal gyrus. Complementing previous ndings, this suggests that left inferior frontal gyrus semantically integrates information across modalities and semiotic domains.
Perniss, P. M., Zwitserlood, I., & Ozyurek, A. (2015). Does space structure spatial language? A comparison of spatial expression across sign languages. Language, 91(3), 611-641.
AbstractThe spatial affordances of the visual modality give rise to a high degree of similarity between sign languages in the spatial domain. This stands in contrast to the vast structural and semantic diversity in linguistic encoding of space found in spoken languages. However, the possibility and nature of linguistic diversity in spatial encoding in sign languages has not been rigorously investigated by systematic crosslinguistic comparison. Here, we compare locative expression in two unrelated sign languages, Turkish Sign Language (Türk İşaret Dili, TİD) and German Sign Language (Deutsche Gebärdensprache, DGS), focusing on the expression of figure-ground (e.g. cup on table) and figure-figure (e.g. cup next to cup) relationships in a discourse context. In addition to similarities, we report qualitative and quantitative differences between the sign languages in the formal devices used (i.e. unimanual vs. bimanual; simultaneous vs. sequential) and in the degree of iconicity of the spatial devices. Our results suggest that sign languages may display more diversity in the spatial domain than has been previously assumed, and in a way more comparable with the diversity found in spoken languages. The study contributes to a more comprehensive understanding of how space gets encoded in language
Perniss, P. M., & Ozyurek, A. (2015). Visible cohesion: A comparison of reference tracking in sign, speech, and co-speech gesture. Topics in Cognitive Science, 7(1), 36-60. doi:10.1111/tops.12122.
AbstractEstablishing and maintaining reference is a crucial part of discourse. In spoken languages, differential linguistic devices mark referents occurring in different referential contexts, that is, introduction, maintenance, and re-introduction contexts. Speakers using gestures as well as users of sign languages have also been shown to mark referents differentially depending on the referential context. This article investigates the modality-specific contribution of the visual modality in marking referential context by providing a direct comparison between sign language (German Sign Language; DGS) and co-speech gesture with speech (German) in elicited narratives. Across all forms of expression, we find that referents in subject position are referred to with more marking material in re-introduction contexts compared to maintenance contexts. Furthermore, we find that spatial modification is used as a modality-specific strategy in both DGS and German co-speech gesture, and that the configuration of referent locations in sign space and gesture space corresponds in an iconic and consistent way to the locations of referents in the narrated event. However, we find that spatial modification is used in different ways for marking re-introduction and maintenance contexts in DGS and German co-speech gesture. The findings are discussed in relation to the unique contribution of the visual modality to reference tracking in discourse when it is used in a unimodal system with full linguistic structure (i.e., as in sign) versus in a bimodal system that is a composite of speech and gesture
Perniss, P. M., Ozyurek, A., & Morgan, G. (2015). The Influence of the visual modality on language structure and conventionalization: Insights from sign language and gesture. Topics in Cognitive Science, 7(1), 2-11. doi:10.1111/tops.12127.
AbstractFor humans, the ability to communicate and use language is instantiated not only in the vocal modality but also in the visual modality. The main examples of this are sign languages and (co-speech) gestures. Sign languages, the natural languages of Deaf communities, use systematic and conventionalized movements of the hands, face, and body for linguistic expression. Co-speech gestures, though non-linguistic, are produced in tight semantic and temporal integration with speech and constitute an integral part of language together with speech. The articles in this issue explore and document how gestures and sign languages are similar or different and how communicative expression in the visual modality can change from being gestural to grammatical in nature through processes of conventionalization. As such, this issue contributes to our understanding of how the visual modality shapes language and the emergence of linguistic structure in newly developing systems. Studying the relationship between signs and gestures provides a new window onto the human ability to recruit multiple levels of representation (e.g., categorical, gradient, iconic, abstract) in the service of using or creating conventionalized communicative systems.
Perniss, P. M., Ozyurek, A., & Morgan, G. (
Eds.). (2015). The influence of the visual modality on language structure and conventionalization: Insights from sign language and gesture [Special Issue]. Topics in Cognitive Science, 7(1). doi:10.1111/tops.12113.
Schubotz, L., Holler, J., & Ozyurek, A. (2015). Age-related differences in multi-modal audience design: Young, but not old speakers, adapt speech and gestures to their addressee's knowledge. In G. Ferré, & M. Tutton (
Eds.), Proceedings of the 4th GESPIN - Gesture & Speech in Interaction Conference (pp. 211-216). Nantes: Université of Nantes.
AbstractSpeakers can adapt their speech and co-speech gestures for addressees. Here, we investigate whether this ability is modulated by age. Younger and older adults participated in a comic narration task in which one participant (the speaker) narrated six short comic stories to another participant (the addressee). One half of each story was known to both participants, the other half only to the speaker. Younger but not older speakers used more words and gestures when narrating novel story content as opposed to known content. We discuss cognitive and pragmatic explanations of these findings and relate them to theories of gesture production.
Slonimska, A., Ozyurek, A., & Campisi, E. (2015). Ostensive signals: markers of communicative relevance of gesture during demonstration to adults and children. In G. Ferré, & M. Tutton (
Eds.), Proceedings of the 4th GESPIN - Gesture & Speech in Interaction Conference (pp. 217-222). Nantes: Universite of Nantes.
AbstractSpeakers adapt their speech and gestures in various ways for their audience. We investigated further whether they use ostensive signals (eye gaze, ostensive speech (e.g. like this, this) or a combination of both) in relation to their gestures when talking to different addressees, i.e., to another adult or a child in a multimodal demonstration task. While adults used more eye gaze towards their gestures with other adults than with children, they were more likely to use combined ostensive signals for children than for adults. Thus speakers mark the communicative relevance of their gestures with different types of ostensive signals and by taking different types of addressees into account.
Emmorey, K., & Ozyurek, A. (2014). Language in our hands: Neural underpinnings of sign language and co-speech gesture. In M. S. Gazzaniga, & G. R. Mangun (
Eds.), The cognitive neurosciences (5th ed., pp. 657-666). Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.
Furman, R., Kuntay, A., & Ozyurek, A. (2014). Early language-specificity of children's event encoding in speech and gesture: Evidence from caused motion in Turkish. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 29, 620-634. doi:10.1080/01690965.2013.824993.
AbstractPrevious research on language development shows that children are tuned early on to the language-specific semantic and syntactic encoding of events in their native language. Here we ask whether language-specificity is also evident in children's early representations in gesture accompanying speech. In a longitudinal study, we examined the spontaneous speech and cospeech gestures of eight Turkish-speaking children aged one to three and focused on their caused motion event expressions. In Turkish, unlike in English, the main semantic elements of caused motion such as Action and Path can be encoded in the verb (e.g. sok- ‘put in’) and the arguments of a verb can be easily omitted. We found that Turkish-speaking children's speech indeed displayed these language-specific features and focused on verbs to encode caused motion. More interestingly, we found that their early gestures also manifested specificity. Children used iconic cospeech gestures (from 19 months onwards) as often as pointing gestures and represented semantic elements such as Action with Figure and/or Path that reinforced or supplemented speech in language-specific ways until the age of three. In the light of previous reports on the scarcity of iconic gestures in English-speaking children's early productions, we argue that the language children learn shapes gestures and how they get integrated with speech in the first three years of life.
Holler, J., Schubotz, L., Kelly, S., Hagoort, P., Schuetze, M., & Ozyurek, A. (2014). Social eye gaze modulates processing of speech and co-speech gesture. Cognition, 133, 692-697. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2014.08.008.
AbstractIn human face-to-face communication, language comprehension is a multi-modal, situated activity. However, little is known about how we combine information from different modalities during comprehension, and how perceived communicative intentions, often signaled through visual signals, influence this process. We explored this question by simulating a multi-party communication context in which a speaker alternated her gaze between two recipients. Participants viewed speech-only or speech + gesture object-related messages when being addressed (direct gaze) or unaddressed (gaze averted to other participant). They were then asked to choose which of two object images matched the speaker’s preceding message. Unaddressed recipients responded significantly more slowly than addressees for speech-only utterances. However, perceiving the same speech accompanied by gestures sped unaddressed recipients up to a level identical to that of addressees. That is, when unaddressed recipients’ speech processing suffers, gestures can enhance the comprehension of a speaker’s message. We discuss our findings with respect to two hypotheses attempting to account for how social eye gaze may modulate multi-modal language comprehension.
Ortega, G., Sumer, B., & Ozyurek, A. (2014). Type of iconicity matters: Bias for action-based signs in sign language acquisition. In P. Bello, M. Guarini, M. McShane, & B. Scassellati (
Eds.), Proceedings of the 36th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2014) (pp. 1114-1119). Austin, Tx: Cognitive Science Society.
AbstractEarly studies investigating sign language acquisition claimed that signs whose structures are motivated by the form of their referent (iconic) are not favoured in language development. However, recent work has shown that the first signs in deaf children’s lexicon are iconic. In this paper we go a step further and ask whether different types of iconicity modulate learning sign-referent links. Results from a picture description task indicate that children and adults used signs with two possible variants differentially. While children signing to adults favoured variants that map onto actions associated with a referent (action signs), adults signing to another adult produced variants that map onto objects’ perceptual features (perceptual signs). Parents interacting with children used more action variants than signers in adult-adult interactions. These results are in line with claims that language development is tightly linked to motor experience and that iconicity can be a communicative strategy in parental input.
Ozyurek, A. (2014). Hearing and seeing meaning in speech and gesture: Insights from brain and behaviour. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series B: Biological Sciences, 369(1651): 20130296. doi:10.1098/rstb.2013.0296.
AbstractAs we speak, we use not only the arbitrary form–meaning mappings of the speech channel but also motivated form–meaning correspondences, i.e. iconic gestures that accompany speech (e.g. inverted V-shaped hand wiggling across gesture space to demonstrate walking). This article reviews what we know about processing of semantic information from speech and iconic gestures in spoken languages during comprehension of such composite utterances. Several studies have shown that comprehension of iconic gestures involves brain activations known to be involved in semantic processing of speech: i.e. modulation of the electrophysiological recording component N400, which is sensitive to the ease of semantic integration of a word to previous context, and recruitment of the left-lateralized frontal–posterior temporal network (left inferior frontal gyrus (IFG), medial temporal gyrus (MTG) and superior temporal gyrus/sulcus (STG/S)). Furthermore, we integrate the information coming from both channels recruiting brain areas such as left IFG, posterior superior temporal sulcus (STS)/MTG and even motor cortex. Finally, this integration is flexible: the temporal synchrony between the iconic gesture and the speech segment, as well as the perceived communicative intent of the speaker, modulate the integration process. Whether these findings are special to gestures or are shared with actions or other visual accompaniments to speech (e.g. lips) or other visual symbols such as pictures are discussed, as well as the implications for a multimodal view of language.
Peeters, D., Azar, Z., & Ozyurek, A. (2014). The interplay between joint attention, physical proximity, and pointing gesture in demonstrative choice. In P. Bello, M. Guarini, M. McShane, & B. Scassellati (
Eds.), Proceedings of the 36th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2014) (pp. 1144-1149). Austin, Tx: Cognitive Science Society.
Sumer, B., Perniss, P., Zwitserlood, I., & Ozyurek, A. (2014). Learning to express "left-right" & "front-behind" in a sign versus spoken language. In P. Bello, M. Guarini, M. McShane, & B. Scassellati (
Eds.), Proceedings of the 36th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2014) (pp. 1550-1555). Austin, Tx: Cognitive Science Society.
AbstractDevelopmental studies show that it takes longer for children learning spoken languages to acquire viewpointdependent spatial relations (e.g., left-right, front-behind), compared to ones that are not viewpoint-dependent (e.g., in, on, under). The current study investigates how children learn to express viewpoint-dependent relations in a sign language where depicted spatial relations can be communicated in an analogue manner in the space in front of the body or by using body-anchored signs (e.g., tapping the right and left hand/arm to mean left and right). Our results indicate that the visual-spatial modality might have a facilitating effect on learning to express these spatial relations (especially in encoding of left-right) in a sign language (i.e., Turkish Sign Language) compared to a spoken language (i.e., Turkish).
Campisi, E., & Ozyurek, A. (2013). Iconicity as a communicative strategy: Recipient design in multimodal demonstrations for adults and children. Journal of Pragmatics, 47, 14-27. doi:10.1016/j.pragma.2012.12.007.
AbstractHumans are the only species that uses communication to teach new knowledge to novices, usually to children (Tomasello, 1999 and Csibra and Gergely, 2006). This context of communication can employ “demonstrations” and it takes place with or without the help of objects (Clark, 1996). Previous research has focused on understanding the nature of demonstrations for very young children and with objects involved. However, little is known about the strategies used in demonstrating an action to an older child in comparison to another adult and without the use of objects, i.e., with gestures only. We tested if during demonstration of an action speakers use different degrees of iconicity in gestures for a child compared to an adult. 18 Italian subjects described to a camera how to make coffee imagining the listener as a 12-year-old child, a novice or an expert adult. While speech was found more informative both for the novice adult and for the child compared to the expert adult, the rate of iconic gestures increased and they were more informative and bigger only for the child compared to both of the adult conditions. Iconicity in gestures can be a powerful communicative strategy in teaching new knowledge to children in demonstrations and this is in line with claims that it can be used as a scaffolding device in grounding knowledge in experience (Perniss et al., 2010).
Debreslioska, S., Ozyurek, A., Gullberg, M., & Perniss, P. M. (2013). Gestural viewpoint signals referent accessibility. Discourse Processes, 50(7), 431-456. doi:10.1080/0163853x.2013.824286.
AbstractThe tracking of entities in discourse is known to be a bimodal phenomenon. Speakers achieve cohesion in speech by alternating between full lexical forms, pronouns, and zero anaphora as they track referents. They also track referents in co-speech gestures. In this study, we explored how viewpoint is deployed in reference tracking, focusing on representations of animate entities in German narrative discourse. We found that gestural viewpoint systematically varies depending on discourse context. Speakers predominantly use character viewpoint in maintained contexts and observer viewpoint in reintroduced contexts. Thus, gestural viewpoint seems to function as a cohesive device in narrative discourse. The findings expand on and provide further evidence for the coordination between speech and gesture on the discourse level that is crucial to understanding the tight link between the two modalities.
Gentner, D., Ozyurek, A., Gurcanli, O., & Goldin-Meadow, S. (2013). Spatial language facilitates spatial cognition: Evidence from children who lack language input. Cognition, 127, 318-330. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2013.01.003.
AbstractDoes spatial language influence how people think about space? To address this question, we observed children who did not know a conventional language, and tested their performance on nonlinguistic spatial tasks. We studied deaf children living in Istanbul whose hearing losses prevented them from acquiring speech and whose hearing parents had not exposed them to sign. Lacking a conventional language, the children used gestures, called homesigns, to communicate. In Study 1, we asked whether homesigners used gesture to convey spatial relations, and found that they did not. In Study 2, we tested a new group of homesigners on a Spatial Mapping Task, and found that they performed significantly worse than hearing Turkish children who were matched to the deaf children on another cognitive task. The absence of spatial language thus went hand-in-hand with poor performance on the nonlinguistic spatial task, pointing to the importance of spatial language in thinking about space.
Holler, J., Schubotz, L., Kelly, S., Schuetze, M., Hagoort, P., & Ozyurek, A. (2013). Here's not looking at you, kid! Unaddressed recipients benefit from co-speech gestures when speech processing suffers. In M. Knauff, M. Pauen, I. Sebanz, & I. Wachsmuth (
Eds.), Proceedings of the 35th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2013) (pp. 2560-2565). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society. Retrieved from http://mindmodeling.org/cogsci2013/papers/0463/index.html.
AbstractIn human face-to-face communication, language comprehension is a multi-modal, situated activity. However, little is known about how we combine information from these different modalities, and how perceived communicative intentions, often signaled through visual signals, such as eye gaze, may influence this processing. We address this question by simulating a triadic communication context in which a speaker alternated her gaze between two different recipients. Participants thus viewed speech-only or speech+gesture object-related utterances when being addressed (direct gaze) or unaddressed (averted gaze). Two object images followed each message and participants’ task was to choose the object that matched the message. Unaddressed recipients responded significantly slower than addressees for speech-only utterances. However, perceiving the same speech accompanied by gestures sped them up to a level identical to that of addressees. That is, when speech processing suffers due to not being addressed, gesture processing remains intact and enhances the comprehension of a speaker’s message
Ortega, G., & Ozyurek, A. (2013). Gesture-sign interface in hearing non-signers' first exposure to sign. In Proceedings of the Tilburg Gesture Research Meeting [TiGeR 2013].
AbstractNatural sign languages and gestures are complex communicative systems that allow the incorporation of features of a referent into their structure. They differ, however, in that signs are more conventionalised because they consist of meaningless phonological parameters. There is some evidence that despite non-signers finding iconic signs more memorable they can have more difficulty at articulating their exact phonological components. In the present study, hearing non-signers took part in a sign repetition task in which they had to imitate as accurately as possible a set of iconic and arbitrary signs. Their renditions showed that iconic signs were articulated significantly less accurately than arbitrary signs. Participants were recalled six months later to take part in a sign generation task. In this task, participants were shown the English translation of the iconic signs they imitated six months prior. For each word, participants were asked to generate a sign (i.e., an iconic gesture). The handshapes produced in the sign repetition and sign generation tasks were compared to detect instances in which both renditions presented the same configuration. There was a significant correlation between articulation accuracy in the sign repetition task and handshape overlap. These results suggest some form of gestural interference in the production of iconic signs by hearing non-signers. We also suggest that in some instances non-signers may deploy their own conventionalised gesture when producing some iconic signs. These findings are interpreted as evidence that non-signers process iconic signs as gestures and that in production, only when sign and gesture have overlapping features will they be capable of producing the phonological components of signs accurately.
Peeters, D., Chu, M., Holler, J., Ozyurek, A., & Hagoort, P. (2013). Getting to the point: The influence of communicative intent on the kinematics of pointing gestures. In M. Knauff, M. Pauen, N. Sebanz, & I. Wachsmuth (
Eds.), Proceedings of the 35th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2013) (pp. 1127-1132). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.
AbstractIn everyday communication, people not only use speech but also hand gestures to convey information. One intriguing question in gesture research has been why gestures take the specific form they do. Previous research has identified the speaker-gesturer’s communicative intent as one factor shaping the form of iconic gestures. Here we investigate whether communicative intent also shapes the form of pointing gestures. In an experimental setting, twenty-four participants produced pointing gestures identifying a referent for an addressee. The communicative intent of the speakergesturer was manipulated by varying the informativeness of the pointing gesture. A second independent variable was the presence or absence of concurrent speech. As a function of their communicative intent and irrespective of the presence of speech, participants varied the durations of the stroke and the post-stroke hold-phase of their gesture. These findings add to our understanding of how the communicative context influences the form that a gesture takes.
Senghas, A., Ozyurek, A., & Goldin-Meadow, S. (2013). Homesign as a way-station between co-speech gesture and sign language: The evolution of segmenting and sequencing. In R. Botha, & M. Everaert (
Eds.), The evolutionary emergence of language: Evidence and inference (pp. 62-77). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Sumer, B., Zwitserlood, I., Perniss, P. M., & Ozyurek, A. (2013). Acquisition of locative expressions in children learning Turkish Sign Language (TİD) and Turkish. In E. Arik (
Ed.), Current directions in Turkish Sign Language research (pp. 243-272). Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
AbstractIn sign languages, where space is often used to talk about space, expressions of spatial relations (e.g., ON, IN, UNDER, BEHIND) may rely on analogue mappings of real space onto signing space. In contrast, spoken languages express space in mostly categorical ways (e.g. adpositions). This raises interesting questions about the role of language modality in the acquisition of expressions of spatial relations. However, whether and to what extent modality influences the acquisition of spatial language is controversial – mostly due to the lack of direct comparisons of Deaf children to Deaf adults and to age-matched hearing children in similar tasks. Furthermore, the previous studies have taken English as the only model for spoken language development of spatial relations. Therefore, we present a balanced study in which spatial expressions by deaf and hearing children in two different age-matched groups (preschool children and school-age children) are systematically compared, as well as compared to the spatial expressions of adults. All participants performed the same tasks, describing angular (LEFT, RIGHT, FRONT, BEHIND) and non-angular spatial configurations (IN, ON, UNDER) of different objects (e.g. apple in box; car behind box). The analysis of the descriptions with non-angular spatial relations does not show an effect of modality on the development of locative expressions in TİD and Turkish. However, preliminary results of the analysis of expressions of angular spatial relations suggest that signers provide angular information in their spatial descriptions more frequently than Turkish speakers in all three age groups, and thus showing a potentially different developmental pattern in this domain. Implications of the findings with regard to the development of relations in spatial language and cognition will be discussed.
Zwitserlood, I., Perniss, P. M., & Ozyurek, A. (2013). Expression of multiple entities in Turkish Sign Language (TİD). In E. Arik (
Ed.), Current Directions in Turkish Sign Language Research (pp. 272-302). Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
AbstractThis paper reports on an exploration of the ways in which multiple entities are expressed in Turkish Sign Language (TİD). The (descriptive and quantitative) analyses provided are based on a corpus of both spontaneous data and specifically elicited data, in order to provide as comprehensive an account as possible. We have found several devices in TİD for expression of multiple entities, in particular localization, spatial plural predicate inflection, and a specific form used to express multiple entities that are side by side in the same configuration (not reported for any other sign language to date), as well as numerals and quantifiers. In contrast to some other signed languages, TİD does not appear to have a productive system of plural reduplication. We argue that none of the devices encountered in the TİD data is a genuine plural marking device and that the plural interpretation of multiple entity localizations and plural predicate inflections is a by-product of the use of space to indicate the existence or the involvement in an event of multiple entities.
Demir, Ö. E., So, W.-C., Ozyurek, A., & Goldin-Meadow, S. (2012). Turkish- and English-speaking children display sensitivity to perceptual context in referring expressions they produce in speech and gesture. Language and Cognitive Processes, 27, 844 -867. doi:10.1080/01690965.2011.589273.
AbstractSpeakers choose a particular expression based on many factors, including availability of the referent in the perceptual context. We examined whether, when expressing referents, monolingual English- and Turkish-speaking children: (1) are sensitive to perceptual context, (2) express this sensitivity in language-specific ways, and (3) use co-speech gestures to specify referents that are underspecified. We also explored the mechanisms underlying children's sensitivity to perceptual context. Children described short vignettes to an experimenter under two conditions: The characters in the vignettes were present in the perceptual context (perceptual context); the characters were absent (no perceptual context). Children routinely used nouns in the no perceptual context condition, but shifted to pronouns (English-speaking children) or omitted arguments (Turkish-speaking children) in the perceptual context condition. Turkish-speaking children used underspecified referents more frequently than English-speaking children in the perceptual context condition; however, they compensated for the difference by using gesture to specify the forms. Gesture thus gives children learning structurally different languages a way to achieve comparable levels of specification while at the same time adhering to the referential expressions dictated by their language.
Holler, J., Kelly, S., Hagoort, P., & Ozyurek, A. (2012). When gestures catch the eye: The influence of gaze direction on co-speech gesture comprehension in triadic communication. In N. Miyake, D. Peebles, & R. P. Cooper (
Eds.), Proceedings of the 34th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2012) (pp. 467-472). Austin, TX: Cognitive Society. Retrieved from http://mindmodeling.org/cogsci2012/papers/0092/index.html.
AbstractCo-speech gestures are an integral part of human face-to-face communication, but little is known about how pragmatic factors influence our comprehension of those gestures. The present study investigates how different types of recipients process iconic gestures in a triadic communicative situation. Participants (N = 32) took on the role of one of two recipients in a triad and were presented with 160 video clips of an actor speaking, or speaking and gesturing. Crucially, the actor’s eye gaze was manipulated in that she alternated her gaze between the two recipients. Participants thus perceived some messages in the role of addressed recipient and some in the role of unaddressed recipient. In these roles, participants were asked to make judgements concerning the speaker’s messages. Their reaction times showed that unaddressed recipients did comprehend speaker’s gestures differently to addressees. The findings are discussed with respect to automatic and controlled processes involved in gesture comprehension.
Kelly, S., Healey, M., Ozyurek, A., & Holler, J. (2012). The communicative influence of gesture and action during speech comprehension: Gestures have the upper hand [Abstract]. Abstracts of the Acoustics 2012 Hong Kong conference published in The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 131, 3311. doi:10.1121/1.4708385.
AbstractHand gestures combine with speech to form a single integrated system of meaning during language comprehension (Kelly et al., 2010). However, it is unknown whether gesture is uniquely integrated with speech or is processed like any other manual action. Thirty-one participants watched videos presenting speech with gestures or manual actions on objects. The relationship between the speech and gesture/action was either complementary (e.g., “He found the answer,” while producing a calculating gesture vs. actually using a calculator) or incongruent (e.g., the same sentence paired with the incongruent gesture/action of stirring with a spoon). Participants watched the video (prime) and then responded to a written word (target) that was or was not spoken in the video prime (e.g., “found” or “cut”). ERPs were taken to the primes (time-locked to the spoken verb, e.g., “found”) and the written targets. For primes, there was a larger frontal N400 (semantic processing) to incongruent vs. congruent items for the gesture, but not action, condition. For targets, the P2 (phonemic processing) was smaller for target words following congruent vs. incongruent gesture, but not action, primes. These findings suggest that hand gestures are integrated with speech in a privileged fashion compared to manual actions on objects.
Ozyurek, A. (2012). Gesture. In R. Pfau, M. Steinbach, & B. Woll (
Eds.), Sign language: An international handbook (pp. 626-646). Berlin: Mouton.
AbstractGestures are meaningful movements of the body, the hands, and the face during communication, which accompany the production of both spoken and signed utterances. Recent research has shown that gestures are an integral part of language and that they contribute semantic, syntactic, and pragmatic information to the linguistic utterance. Furthermore, they reveal internal representations of the language user during communication in ways that might not be encoded in the verbal part of the utterance. Firstly, this chapter summarizes research on the role of gesture in spoken languages. Subsequently, it gives an overview of how gestural components might manifest themselves in sign languages, that is, in a situation in which both gesture and sign are expressed by the same articulators. Current studies are discussed that address the question of whether gestural components are the same or different in the two language modalities from a semiotic as well as from a cognitive and processing viewpoint. Understanding the role of gesture in both sign and spoken language contributes to our knowledge of the human language faculty as a multimodal communication system.
Sumer, B., Zwitserlood, I., Perniss, P. M., & Ozyurek, A. (2012). Development of locative expressions by Turkish deaf and hearing children: Are there modality effects? In A. K. Biller, E. Y. Chung, & A. E. Kimball (
Eds.), Proceedings of the 36th Annual Boston University Conference on Language Development (BUCLD 36) (pp. 568-580). Boston: Cascadilla Press.
Zwitserlood, I., Perniss, P. M., & Ozyurek, A. (2012). An empirical investigation of expression of multiple entities in Turkish Sign Language (TİD): Considering the effects of modality. Lingua, 122, 1636 -1667. doi:10.1016/j.lingua.2012.08.010.
AbstractThis paper explores the expression of multiple entities in Turkish Sign Language (Türk İşaret Dili; TİD), a less well-studied sign language. It aims to provide a comprehensive description of the ways and frequencies in which entity plurality in this language is expressed, both within and outside the noun phrase. We used a corpus that includes both elicited and spontaneous data from native signers. The results reveal that most of the expressions of multiple entities in TİD are iconic, spatial strategies (i.e. localization and spatial plural predicate inflection) none of which, we argue, should be considered as genuine plural marking devices with the main aim of expressing plurality. Instead, the observed devices for localization and predicate inflection allow for a plural interpretation when multiple locations in space are used. Our data do not provide evidence that TİD employs (productive) morphological plural marking (i.e. reduplication) on nouns, in contrast to some other sign languages and many spoken languages. We relate our findings to expression of multiple entities in other signed languages and in spoken languages and discuss these findings in terms of modality effects on expression of multiple entities in human language.
Habets, B., Kita, S., Shao, Z., Ozyurek, A., & Hagoort, P. (2011). The role of synchrony and ambiguity in speech–gesture integration during comprehension. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 23, 1845-1854. doi:10.1162/jocn.2010.21462.
AbstractDuring face-to-face communication, one does not only hear speech but also see a speaker's communicative hand movements. It has been shown that such hand gestures play an important role in communication where the two modalities influence each other's interpretation. A gesture typically temporally overlaps with coexpressive speech, but the gesture is often initiated before (but not after) the coexpressive speech. The present ERP study investigated what degree of asynchrony in the speech and gesture onsets are optimal for semantic integration of the concurrent gesture and speech. Videos of a person gesturing were combined with speech segments that were either semantically congruent or incongruent with the gesture. Although gesture and speech always overlapped in time, gesture and speech were presented with three different degrees of asynchrony. In the SOA 0 condition, the gesture onset and the speech onset were simultaneous. In the SOA 160 and 360 conditions, speech was delayed by 160 and 360 msec, respectively. ERPs time locked to speech onset showed a significant difference between semantically congruent versus incongruent gesture–speech combinations on the N400 for the SOA 0 and 160 conditions. No significant difference was found for the SOA 360 condition. These results imply that speech and gesture are integrated most efficiently when the differences in onsets do not exceed a certain time span because of the fact that iconic gestures need speech to be disambiguated in a way relevant to the speech context.
Ozyurek, A. (2011). Language in our hands: The role of the body in language, cognition and communication [Inaugural lecture]. Nijmegen: Radboud University Nijmegen.
AbstractEven though most studies of language have focused on speech channel and/or viewed language as an amodal abstract system, there is growing evidence on the role our bodily actions/ perceptions play in language and communication. In this context, Özyürek discusses what our meaningful visible bodily actions reveal about our language capacity. Conducting cross-linguistic, behavioral, and neurobiological research, she shows that co-speech gestures reflect the imagistic, iconic aspects of events talked about and at the same time interact with language production and comprehension processes. Sign languages can also be characterized having an abstract system of linguistic categories as well as using iconicity in several aspects of the language structure and in its processing. Studying language multimodally reveals how grounded language is in our visible bodily actions and opens up new lines of research to study language in its situated, natural face-to-face context.
Ozyurek, A., & Perniss, P. M. (2011). Event representations in signed languages. In J. Bohnemeyer, & E. Pederson (
Eds.), Event representations in language and cognition (pp. 84-107). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Perniss, P. M., Zwitserlood, I., & Ozyurek, A. (2011). Does space structure spatial language? Linguistic encoding of space in sign languages. In L. Carlson, C. Holscher, & T. Shipley (
Eds.), Proceedings of the 33rd Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 1595-1600). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.