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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.
Kelly, S. D., Ozyurek, A., & Maris, E. (2010). Two sides of the same coin: Speech and gesture mutually interact to enhance comprehension. Psychological Science, 21, 260-267. doi:10.1177/0956797609357327.
AbstractGesture and speech are assumed to form an integrated system during language production. Based on this view, we propose the integrated‐systems hypothesis, which explains two ways in which gesture and speech are integrated—through mutual and obligatory interactions—in language comprehension. Experiment 1 presented participants with action primes (e.g., someone chopping vegetables) and bimodal speech and gesture targets. Participants related primes to targets more quickly and accurately when they contained congruent information (speech: “chop”; gesture: chop) than when they contained incongruent information (speech: “chop”; gesture: twist). Moreover, the strength of the incongruence affected processing, with fewer errors for weak incongruities (speech: “chop”; gesture: cut) than for strong incongruities (speech: “chop”; gesture: twist). Crucial for the integrated‐systems hypothesis, this influence was bidirectional. Experiment 2 demonstrated that gesture’s influence on speech was obligatory. The results confirm the integrated‐systems hypothesis and demonstrate that gesture and speech form an integrated system in language comprehension.
Ozyurek, A., Zwitserlood, I., & Perniss, P. M. (2010). Locative expressions in signed languages: A view from Turkish Sign Language (TID). Linguistics, 48(5), 1111-1145. doi:10.1515/LING.2010.036.
AbstractLocative expressions encode the spatial relationship between two (or more) entities. In this paper, we focus on locative expressions in signed language, which use the visual-spatial modality for linguistic expression, specifically in Turkish Sign Language ( Türk İşaret Dili, henceforth TİD). We show that TİD uses various strategies in discourse to encode the relation between a Ground entity (i.e., a bigger and/or backgrounded entity) and a Figure entity (i.e., a smaller entity, which is in the focus of attention). Some of these strategies exploit affordances of the visual modality for analogue representation and support evidence for modality-specific effects on locative expressions in sign languages. However, other modality-specific strategies, e.g., the simultaneous expression of Figure and Ground, which have been reported for many other sign languages, occurs only sparsely in TİD. Furthermore, TİD uses categorical as well as analogical structures in locative expressions. On the basis of these findings, we discuss differences and similarities between signed and spoken languages to broaden our understanding of the range of structures used in natural language (i.e., in both the visual-spatial or oral-aural modalities) to encode locative relations. A general linguistic theory of spatial relations, and specifically of locative expressions, must take all structures that might arise in both modalities into account before it can generalize over the human language faculty.