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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
Schubotz, L. (2021). Effects of aging and cognitive abilities on multimodal language production and comprehension in context. PhD Thesis, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen.
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).
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.