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Karadöller, D. Z., Sumer, B., & Ozyurek, A. (2021). Effects and non-effects of late language exposure on spatial language development: Evidence from deaf adults and children. Language Learning and Development, 17(1), 1-25. doi:10.1080/15475441.2020.1823846.
AbstractLate exposure to the first language, as in the case of deaf children with hearing parents, hinders the production of linguistic expressions, even in adulthood. Less is known about the development of language soon after language exposure and if late exposure hinders all domains of language in children and adults. We compared late signing adults and children (MAge = 8;5) 2 years after exposure to sign language, to their age-matched native signing peers in expressions of two types of locative relations that are acquired in certain cognitive-developmental order: view-independent (IN-ON-UNDER) and view-dependent (LEFT-RIGHT). Late signing children and adults differed from native signers in their use of linguistic devices for view-dependent relations but not for view-independent relations. These effects were also modulated by the morphological complexity. Hindering effects of late language exposure on the development of language in children and adults are not absolute but are modulated by cognitive and linguistic complexity.
Manhardt, F., Brouwer, S., & Ozyurek, A. (2021). A tale of two modalities: Sign and speech influence in each other in bimodal bilinguals. Psychological Science, 32(3), 424-436. doi:10.1177/0956797620968789.
AbstractBimodal bilinguals are hearing individuals fluent in a sign and a spoken language. Can the two languages influence each other in such individuals despite differences in the visual (sign) and vocal (speech) modalities of expression? We investigated cross-linguistic influences on bimodal bilinguals’ expression of spatial relations. Unlike spoken languages, sign uses iconic linguistic forms that resemble physical features of objects in a spatial relation and thus expresses specific semantic information. Hearing bimodal bilinguals (n = 21) fluent in Dutch and Sign Language of the Netherlands and their hearing nonsigning and deaf signing peers (n = 20 each) described left/right relations between two objects. Bimodal bilinguals expressed more specific information about physical features of objects in speech than nonsigners, showing influence from sign language. They also used fewer iconic signs with specific semantic information than deaf signers, demonstrating influence from speech. Bimodal bilinguals’ speech and signs are shaped by two languages from different modalities.
Additional informationsupplementary materials
Nielsen, A. K. S., & Dingemanse, M. (2021). Iconicity in word learning and beyond: A critical review. Language and Speech, 64(1), 52-72. doi:10.1177/0023830920914339.
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 the iconicity of certain lexical items influences the learning of those items) and general learning enhancement (where the iconicity of certain lexical items 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 sample 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 in 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 modest or cross-linguistically varied, on balance, iconicity emerges as a vital aspect of language.
Pouw, W., De Jonge-Hoekstra, L., Harrison, S. J., Paxton, A., & Dixon, J. A. (2021). Gesture-speech physics in fluent speech and rhythmic upper limb movements. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1491(1), 89-105. doi:10.1111/nyas.14532.
AbstractCommunicative hand gestures are often coordinated with prosodic aspects of speech, and salient moments of gestural movement (e.g., quick changes in speed) often co-occur with salient moments in speech (e.g., near peaks in fundamental frequency and intensity). A common understanding is that such gesture and speech coordination is culturally and cognitively acquired, rather than having a biological basis. Recently, however, the biomechanical physical coupling of arm movements to speech movements has been identified as a potentially important factor in understanding the emergence of gesture-speech coordination. Specifically, in the case of steady-state vocalization and mono-syllable utterances, forces produced during gesturing are transferred onto the tensioned body, leading to changes in respiratory-related activity and thereby affecting vocalization F0 and intensity. In the current experiment (N = 37), we extend this previous line of work to show that gesture-speech physics impacts fluent speech, too. Compared with non-movement, participants who are producing fluent self-formulated speech, while rhythmically moving their limbs, demonstrate heightened F0 and amplitude envelope, and such effects are more pronounced for higher-impulse arm versus lower-impulse wrist movement. We replicate that acoustic peaks arise especially during moments of peak-impulse (i.e., the beat) of the movement, namely around deceleration phases of the movement. Finally, higher deceleration rates of higher-mass arm movements were related to higher peaks in acoustics. These results confirm a role for physical-impulses of gesture affecting the speech system. We discuss the implications of gesture-speech physics for understanding of the emergence of communicative gesture, both ontogenetically and phylogenetically.
Additional informationdata and analyses
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.
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., 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.