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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., & 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., & 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. (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
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.
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.