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Azar, Z., Backus, A., & Ozyurek, A. (2020). Language contact does not drive gesture transfer: Heritage speakers maintain language specific gesture patterns in each language. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 23(2), 414-428. doi:10.1017/S136672891900018X.
AbstractThis paper investigates whether there are changes in gesture rate when speakers of two languages with different gesture rates (Turkish-high gesture; Dutch-low gesture) come into daily contact. We analyzed gestures produced by second-generation heritage speakers of Turkish in the Netherlands in each language, comparing them to monolingual baselines. We did not find differences between bilingual and monolingual speakers, possibly because bilinguals were proficient in both languages and used them frequently – in line with a usage-based approach to language. However, bilinguals produced more deictic gestures than monolinguals in both Turkish and Dutch, which we interpret as a bilingual strategy. Deictic gestures may help organize discourse by placing entities in gesture space and help reduce the cognitive load associated with being bilingual, e.g., inhibition cost. Therefore, gesture rate does not necessarily change in contact situations but might be modulated by frequency of language use, proficiency, and cognitive factors related to being bilingual.
Azar, Z., Ozyurek, A., & Backus, A. (2020). Turkish-Dutch bilinguals maintain language-specific reference tracking strategies in elicited narratives. International Journal of Bilingualism, 24(2), 376-409. doi:10.1177/1367006919838375.
AbstractAim: This paper examines whether second-generation Turkish heritage speakers in the Netherlands follow language-specific patterns of reference tracking in Turkish and Dutch, focusing on discourse status and pragmatic contexts as factors that may modulate the choice of referring expressions (REs), that is, the noun phrase (NP), overt pronoun and null pronoun. Methodology: Two short silent videos were used to elicit narratives from 20 heritage speakers of Turkish, both in Turkish and in Dutch. Monolingual baseline data were collected from 20 monolingually raised speakers of Turkish in Turkey and 20 monolingually raised speakers of Dutch in the Netherlands. We also collected language background data from bilinguals with an extensive survey. Data and analysis: Using generalised logistic mixed-effect regression, we analysed the influence of discourse status and pragmatic context on the choice of subject REs in Turkish and Dutch, comparing bilingual data to the monolingual baseline in each language. Findings: Heritage speakers used overt versus null pronouns in Turkish and stressed versus reduced pronouns in Dutch in pragmatically appropriate contexts. There was, however, a slight increase in the proportions of overt pronouns as opposed to NPs in Turkish and as opposed to null pronouns in Dutch. We suggest an explanation based on the degree of entrenchment of differential RE types in relation to discourse status as the possible source of the increase. Originality: This paper provides data from an understudied language pair in the domain of reference tracking in language contact situations. Unlike several studies of pronouns in language contact, we do not find differences across monolingual and bilingual speakers with regard to pragmatic constraints on overt pronouns in the minority pro-drop language. Significance: Our findings highlight the importance of taking language proficiency and use into account while studying bilingualism and combining formal approaches to language use with usage-based approaches for a more complete understanding of bilingual language production.
Burghoorn, F., Dingemanse, M., Van Lier, R., & Van Leeuwen, T. M. (2020). The relation between the degree of synaesthesia, autistic traits, and local/global visual perception. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 50, 12-29. doi:10.1007/s10803-019-04222-7.
AbstractIn individuals with synaesthesia specific sensory stimulation leads to unusual concurrent perceptions in the same or a different modality. Recent studies have demonstrated a high co-occurrence between synaesthesia and autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a condition also characterized by altered perception. A potentially shared characteristic of synaesthesia and ASD is a bias towards local (detail-focussed) perception. We investigated whether a bias towards local perception is indeed shared between synaesthesia and ASD. In a neurotypical population, we studied the relation between the degree of autistic traits (measured by the AQ) and the degree of grapheme-colour synaesthesia (measured by a consistency task), as well as whether both are related to a local bias in tasks assessing local/global visual perception. A positive correlation between total AQ scores and the degree of synaesthesia was found. Our study extends previous studies that found a high ASD-synaesthesia co-occurrence in clinical populations. Consistent with the hypothesized local perceptual bias in ASD, scores on the AQ-attention to detail subscale were related to increased performance on an Embedded Figures Task (EFT), and we found evidence for a relation to reduced susceptibility to visual illusions. We found no relation between autistic traits and local visual perception in a motion coherence task (MCT). Also, no relation between synaesthesia and local visual perception was found, although a reduced susceptibility to visual illusions resembled the results obtained for AQ-atttention to detail subscale. A suggested explanation for the absence of a relationship between the degree of synaesthesia and a local bias is that a possible local bias might be more pronounced in supra-threshold synaesthetes (compared to neurotypicals).
Dingemanse, M., Perlman, M., & Perniss, P. (2020). Construals of iconicity: Experimental approaches to form-meaning resemblances in language. Language and Cognition, 12(1), 1-14. doi:10.1017/langcog.2019.48.
AbstractWhile speculations on form–meaning resemblances in language go back millennia, the experimental study of iconicity is only about a century old. Here we take stock of experimental work on iconicity and present a double special issue with a diverse set of new contributions. We contextualise the work by introducing a typology of approaches to iconicity in language. Some approaches construe iconicity as a discrete property that is either present or absent; others treat it as involving semiotic relationships that come in kinds; and yet others see it as a gradient substance that comes in degrees. We show the benefits and limitations that come with each of these construals and stress the importance of developing accounts that can fluently switch between them. With operationalisations of iconicity that are well defined yet flexible enough to deal with differences in tasks, modalities, and levels of analysis, experimental research on iconicity is well equipped to contribute to a comprehensive science of language.
Dingemanse, M. (2020). Der Raum zwischen unseren Köpfen. Technology Review, 2020(13), 10-15.
AbstractAktuelle Vorstellungen von Gehirn-zu-Gehirn-Schnittstellen versprechen, die Sprache zu umgehen. Aber wenn wir sie verfeinern, um ihr kollaboratives Potenzial voll auszuschöpfen, sehen wir Sprache — oder zumindest ein sprachähnliches Infrastruktur für Kommunikation und Koordination — durch die Hintertür wieder hereinkommen. Es wäre nicht das erste Mal, dass sich die Sprache neu erfindet. Current conceptions of brain-to-brain interfaces attempt to bypass language. But when we refine them to more fully realise their collaborative potential we find language —or at least a language-like infrastructure for communication and coordination— slipping through the back door. It wouldn't be the first time that language reinvented itself.
Dingemanse, M., & Thompson, B. (2020). Playful iconicity: Structural markedness underlies the relation between funniness and iconicity. Language and Cognition, 12(1), 203-224. doi:10.1017/langcog.2019.49.
AbstractWords like ‘waddle’, ‘flop’ and ‘zigzag’ combine playful connotations with iconic form-meaning resemblances. Here we propose that structural markedness may be a common factor underlying perceptions of playfulness and iconicity. Using collected and estimated lexical ratings covering a total of over 70,000 English words, we assess the robustness of this assocation. We identify cues of phonotactic complexity that covary with funniness and iconicity ratings and that, we propose, serve as metacommunicative signals to draw attention to words as playful and performative. To assess the generalisability of the findings we develop a method to estimate lexical ratings from distributional semantics and apply it to a dataset 20 times the size of the original set of human ratings. The method can be used more generally to extend coverage of lexical ratings. We find that it reliably reproduces correlations between funniness and iconicity as well as cues of structural markedness, though it also amplifies biases present in the human ratings. Our study shows that the playful and the poetic are part of the very texture of the lexicon.
Dingemanse, M. (2020). Resource-rationality beyond individual minds: The case of interactive language use. Behavioural and Brain Sciences, 43, 23-24. doi:10.1017/S0140525X19001638.
AbstractResource-rational approaches offer much promise for understanding human cognition, especially if they can reach beyond the confines of individual minds. Language allows people to transcend individual resource limitations by augmenting computation and enabling distributed cognition. Interactive language use, an environment where social rational agents routinely deal with resource constraints together, offers a natural laboratory to test resource-rationality in the wild.
Dowell, C., Hajnal, A., Pouw, W., & Wagman, J. B. (2020). Visual and haptic perception of affordances of feelies. Perception, 49(9), 905-925. doi:10.1177/0301006620946532.
AbstractMost objects have well-defined affordances. Investigating perception of affordances of objects that were not created for a specific purpose would provide insight into how affordances are perceived. In addition, comparison of perception of affordances for such objects across different exploratory modalities (visual vs. haptic) would offer a strong test of the lawfulness of information about affordances (i.e., the invariance of such information over transformation). Along these lines, “feelies”— objects created by Gibson with no obvious function and unlike any common object—could shed light on the processes underlying affordance perception. This study showed that when observers reported potential uses for feelies, modality significantly influenced what kind of affordances were perceived. Specifically, visual exploration resulted in more noun labels (e.g., “toy”) than haptic exploration which resulted in more verb labels (i.e., “throw”). These results suggested that overlapping, but distinct classes of action possibilities are perceivable using vision and haptics. Semantic network analyses revealed that visual exploration resulted in object-oriented responses focused on object identification, whereas haptic exploration resulted in action-oriented responses. Cluster analyses confirmed these results. Affordance labels produced in the visual condition were more consistent, used fewer descriptors, were less diverse, but more novel than in the haptic condition.
Drijvers, L., & Ozyurek, A. (2020). Non-native listeners benefit less from gestures and visible speech than native listeners during degraded speech comprehension. Language and Speech, 63(2), 209-220. doi:10.1177/0023830919831311.
AbstractNative listeners benefit from both visible speech and iconic gestures to enhance degraded speech comprehension (Drijvers & Ozyürek, 2017). We tested how highly proficient non-native listeners benefit from these visual articulators compared to native listeners. We presented videos of an actress uttering a verb in clear, moderately, or severely degraded speech, while her lips were blurred, visible, or visible and accompanied by a gesture. Our results revealed that unlike native listeners, non-native listeners were less likely to benefit from the combined enhancement of visible speech and gestures, especially since the benefit from visible speech was minimal when the signal quality was not sufficient.
Eielts, C., Pouw, W., Ouwehand, K., Van Gog, T., Zwaan, R. A., & Paas, F. (2020). Co-thought gesturing supports more complex problem solving in subjects with lower visual working-memory capacity. Psychological Research, 84, 502-513. doi:10.1007/s00426-018-1065-9.
AbstractDuring silent problem solving, hand gestures arise that have no communicative intent. The role of such co-thought gestures in cognition has been understudied in cognitive research as compared to co-speech gestures. We investigated whether gesticulation during silent problem solving supported subsequent performance in a Tower of Hanoi problem-solving task, in relation to visual working-memory capacity and task complexity. Seventy-six participants were assigned to either an instructed gesture condition or a condition that allowed them to gesture, but without explicit instructions to do so. This resulted in three gesture groups: (1) non-gesturing; (2) spontaneous gesturing; (3) instructed gesturing. In line with the embedded/extended cognition perspective on gesture, gesturing benefited complex problem-solving performance for participants with a lower visual working-memory capacity, but not for participants with a lower spatial working-memory capacity.
Hostetter, A. B., Pouw, W., & Wakefield, E. M. (2020). Learning from gesture and action: An investigation of memory for where objects went and how they got there. Cognitive Science, 44(9): e12889. doi:10.1111/cogs.12889.
AbstractSpeakers often use gesture to demonstrate how to perform actions—for example, they might show how to open the top of a jar by making a twisting motion above the jar. Yet it is unclear whether listeners learn as much from seeing such gestures as they learn from seeing actions that physically change the position of objects (i.e., actually opening the jar). Here, we examined participants' implicit and explicit understanding about a series of movements that demonstrated how to move a set of objects. The movements were either shown with actions that physically relocated each object or with gestures that represented the relocation without touching the objects. Further, the end location that was indicated for each object covaried with whether the object was grasped with one or two hands. We found that memory for the end location of each object was better after seeing the physical relocation of the objects, that is, after seeing action, than after seeing gesture, regardless of whether speech was absent (Experiment 1) or present (Experiment 2). However, gesture and action built similar implicit understanding of how a particular handgrasp corresponded with a particular end location. Although gestures miss the benefit of showing the end state of objects that have been acted upon, the data show that gestures are as good as action in building knowledge of how to perform an action.
Karadöller, D. Z., Sumer, B., & Ozyurek, A. (2020). Effects and non-effects of late language exposure on spatial language development: Evidence from deaf adults and children. Language Learning and Development. Advance online publication. 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.
Kendrick, K. H., Brown, P., Dingemanse, M., Floyd, S., Gipper, S., Hayano, K., Hoey, E., Hoymann, G., Manrique, E., Rossi, G., & Levinson, S. C. (2020). Sequence organization: A universal infrastructure for social action. Journal of Pragmatics, 168, 119-138. doi:10.1016/j.pragma.2020.06.009.
AbstractThis article makes the case for the universality of the sequence organization observable in informal human conversational interaction. Using the descriptive schema developed by Schegloff (2007), we examine the major patterns of action-sequencing in a dozen nearly all unrelated languages. What we find is that these patterns are instantiated in very similar ways for the most part right down to the types of different action sequences. There are also some notably different cultural exploitations of the patterns, but the patterns themselves look strongly universal. Recent work in gestural communication in the great apes suggests that sequence organization may have been a crucial route into the development of language. Taken together with the fundamental role of this organization in language acquisition, sequential behavior of this kind seems to have both phylogenetic and ontogenetic priority, which probably puts substantial functional pressure on language form.
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Macuch Silva, V., Holler, J., Ozyurek, A., & Roberts, S. G. (2020). Multimodality and the origin of a novel communication system in face-to-face interaction. Royal Society Open Science, 7: 182056. doi:10.1098/rsos.182056.
AbstractFace-to-face communication is multimodal at its core: it consists of a combination of vocal and visual signalling. However, current evidence suggests that, in the absence of an established communication system, visual signalling, especially in the form of visible gesture, is a more powerful form of communication than vocalisation, and therefore likely to have played a primary role in the emergence of human language. This argument is based on experimental evidence of how vocal and visual modalities (i.e., gesture) are employed to communicate about familiar concepts when participants cannot use their existing languages. To investigate this further, we introduce an experiment where pairs of participants performed a referential communication task in which they described unfamiliar stimuli in order to reduce reliance on conventional signals. Visual and auditory stimuli were described in three conditions: using visible gestures only, using non-linguistic vocalisations only and given the option to use both (multimodal communication). The results suggest that even in the absence of conventional signals, gesture is a more powerful mode of communication compared to vocalisation, but that there are also advantages to multimodality compared to using gesture alone. Participants with an option to produce multimodal signals had comparable accuracy to those using only gesture, but gained an efficiency advantage. The analysis of the interactions between participants showed that interactants developed novel communication systems for unfamiliar stimuli by deploying different modalities flexibly to suit their needs and by taking advantage of multimodality when required.
Manhardt, F., Ozyurek, A., Sumer, B., Mulder, K., Karadöller, D. Z., & Brouwer, S. (2020). Iconicity in spatial language guides visual attention: A comparison between signers’ and speakers’ eye gaze during message preparation. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 46(9), 1735-1753. doi:10.1037/xlm0000843.
AbstractTo talk about space, spoken languages rely on arbitrary and categorical forms (e.g., left, right). In sign languages, however, the visual–spatial modality allows for iconic encodings (motivated form-meaning mappings) of space in which form and location of the hands bear resemblance to the objects and spatial relations depicted. We assessed whether the iconic encodings in sign languages guide visual attention to spatial relations differently than spatial encodings in spoken languages during message preparation at the sentence level. Using a visual world production eye-tracking paradigm, we compared 20 deaf native signers of Sign-Language-of-the-Netherlands and 20 Dutch speakers’ visual attention to describe left versus right configurations of objects (e.g., “pen is to the left/right of cup”). Participants viewed 4-picture displays in which each picture contained the same 2 objects but in different spatial relations (lateral [left/right], sagittal [front/behind], topological [in/on]) to each other. They described the target picture (left/right) highlighted by an arrow. During message preparation, signers, but not speakers, experienced increasing eye-gaze competition from other spatial configurations. This effect was absent during picture viewing prior to message preparation of relational encoding. Moreover, signers’ visual attention to lateral and/or sagittal relations was predicted by the type of iconicity (i.e., object and space resemblance vs. space resemblance only) in their spatial descriptions. Findings are discussed in relation to how “thinking for speaking” differs from “thinking for signing” and how iconicity can mediate the link between language and human experience and guides signers’ but not speakers’ attention to visual aspects of the world.
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Nielsen, A. K. S., & Dingemanse, M. (2020). Iconicity in word learning and beyond: A critical review. Language and Speech. Advance online publication. 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.
Ortega, G., Ozyurek, A., & Peeters, D. (2020). Iconic gestures serve as manual cognates in hearing second language learners of a sign language: An ERP study. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 46(3), 403-415. doi:10.1037/xlm0000729.
AbstractWhen learning a second spoken language, cognates, words overlapping in form and meaning with one’s native language, help breaking into the language one wishes to acquire. But what happens when the to-be-acquired second language is a sign language? We tested whether hearing nonsigners rely on their gestural repertoire at first exposure to a sign language. Participants saw iconic signs with high and low overlap with the form of iconic gestures while electrophysiological brain activity was recorded. Upon first exposure, signs with low overlap with gestures elicited enhanced positive amplitude in the P3a component compared to signs with high overlap. This effect disappeared after a training session. We conclude that nonsigners generate expectations about the form of iconic signs never seen before based on their implicit knowledge of gestures, even without having to produce them. Learners thus draw from any available semiotic resources when acquiring a second language, and not only from their linguistic experience
Ortega, G., & Ozyurek, A. (2020). Systematic mappings between semantic categories and types of iconic representations in the manual modality: A normed database of silent gesture. Behavior Research Methods, 52, 51-67. doi:10.3758/s13428-019-01204-6.
AbstractAn unprecedented number of empirical studies have shown that iconic gestures—those that mimic the sensorimotor attributes of a referent—contribute significantly to language acquisition, perception, and processing. However, there has been a lack of normed studies describing generalizable principles in gesture production and in comprehension of the mappings of different types of iconic strategies (i.e., modes of representation; Müller, 2013). In Study 1 we elicited silent gestures in order to explore the implementation of different types of iconic representation (i.e., acting, representing, drawing, and personification) to express concepts across five semantic domains. In Study 2 we investigated the degree of meaning transparency (i.e., iconicity ratings) of the gestures elicited in Study 1. We found systematicity in the gestural forms of 109 concepts across all participants, with different types of iconicity aligning with specific semantic domains: Acting was favored for actions and manipulable objects, drawing for nonmanipulable objects, and personification for animate entities. Interpretation of gesture–meaning transparency was modulated by the interaction between mode of representation and semantic domain, with some couplings being more transparent than others: Acting yielded higher ratings for actions, representing for object-related concepts, personification for animate entities, and drawing for nonmanipulable entities. This study provides mapping principles that may extend to all forms of manual communication (gesture and sign). This database includes a list of the most systematic silent gestures in the group of participants, a notation of the form of each gesture based on four features (hand configuration, orientation, placement, and movement), each gesture’s mode of representation, iconicity ratings, and professionally filmed videos that can be used for experimental and clinical endeavors.
Ortega, G., & Ozyurek, A. (2020). Types of iconicity and combinatorial strategies distinguish semantic categories in silent gesture. Language and Cognition, 12(1), 84-113. doi:10.1017/langcog.2019.28.
AbstractIn this study we explore whether different types of iconic gestures (i.e., acting, drawing, representing) and their combinations are used systematically to distinguish between different semantic categories in production and comprehension. In Study 1, we elicited silent gestures from Mexican and Dutch participants to represent concepts from three semantic categories: actions, manipulable objects, and non-manipulable objects. Both groups favoured the acting strategy to represent actions and manipulable objects; while non-manipulable objects were represented through the drawing strategy. Actions elicited primarily single gestures whereas objects elicited combinations of different types of iconic gestures as well as pointing. In Study 2, a different group of participants were shown gestures from Study 1 and were asked to guess their meaning. Single-gesture depictions for actions were more accurately guessed than for objects. Objects represented through two-gesture combinations (e.g., acting + drawing) were more accurately guessed than objects represented with a single gesture. We suggest iconicity is exploited to make direct links with a referent, but when it lends itself to ambiguity, individuals resort to combinatorial structures to clarify the intended referent. Iconicity and the need to communicate a clear signal shape the structure of silent gestures and this in turn supports comprehension.
Ozyurek, A. (2020). From hands to brains: How does human body talk, think and interact in face-to-face language use? In K. Truong, D. Heylen, & M. Czerwinski (
Eds.), ICMI '20: Proceedings of the 2020 International Conference on Multimodal Interaction (pp. 1-2). New York, NY, USA: Association for Computing Machinery. doi:10.1145/3382507.3419442.
Pouw, W., Paxton, A., Harrison, S. J., & Dixon, J. A. (2020). Acoustic information about upper limb movement in voicing. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 117(21), 11364-11367. doi:10.1073/pnas.2004163117.
AbstractWe show that the human voice has complex acoustic qualities that are directly coupled to peripheral musculoskeletal tensioning of the body, such as subtle wrist movements. In this study, human vocalizers produced a steady-state vocalization while rhythmically moving the wrist or the arm at different tempos. Although listeners could only hear but not see the vocalizer, they were able to completely synchronize their own rhythmic wrist or arm movement with the movement of the vocalizer which they perceived in the voice acoustics. This study corroborates recent evidence suggesting that the human voice is constrained by bodily tensioning affecting the respiratory-vocal system. The current results show that the human voice contains a bodily imprint that is directly informative for the interpersonal perception of another’s dynamic physical states.
Pouw, W., Harrison, S. J., Esteve-Gibert, N., & Dixon, J. A. (2020). Energy flows in gesture-speech physics: The respiratory-vocal system and its coupling with hand gestures. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 148(3): 1231. doi:10.1121/10.0001730.
AbstractExpressive moments in communicative hand gestures often align with emphatic stress in speech. It has recently been found that acoustic markers of emphatic stress arise naturally during steady-state phonation when upper-limb movements impart physical impulses on the body, most likely affecting acoustics via respiratory activity. In this confirmatory study, participants (N = 29) repeatedly uttered consonant-vowel (/pa/) mono-syllables while moving in particular phase relations with speech, or not moving the upper limbs. This study shows that respiration-related activity is affected by (especially high-impulse) gesturing when vocalizations occur near peaks in physical impulse. This study further shows that gesture-induced moments of bodily impulses increase the amplitude envelope of speech, while not similarly affecting the Fundamental Frequency (F0). Finally, tight relations between respiration-related activity and vocalization were observed, even in the absence of movement, but even more so when upper-limb movement is present. The current findings expand a developing line of research showing that speech is modulated by functional biomechanical linkages between hand gestures and the respiratory system. This identification of gesture-speech biomechanics promises to provide an alternative phylogenetic, ontogenetic, and mechanistic explanatory route of why communicative upper limb movements co-occur with speech in humans. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
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Pouw, W., & Dixon, J. A. (2020). Gesture networks: Introducing dynamic time warping and network analysis for the kinematic study of gesture ensembles. Discourse Processes, 57(4), 301-319. doi:10.1080/0163853X.2019.1678967.
AbstractWe introduce applications of established methods in time-series and network analysis that we jointly apply here for the kinematic study of gesture ensembles. We define a gesture ensemble as the set of gestures produced during discourse by a single person or a group of persons. Here we are interested in how gestures kinematically relate to one another. We use a bivariate time-series analysis called dynamic time warping to assess how similar each gesture is to other gestures in the ensemble in terms of their velocity profiles (as well as studying multivariate cases with gesture velocity and speech amplitude envelope profiles). By relating each gesture event to all other gesture events produced in the ensemble, we obtain a weighted matrix that essentially represents a network of similarity relationships. We can therefore apply network analysis that can gauge, for example, how diverse or coherent certain gestures are with respect to the gesture ensemble. We believe these analyses promise to be of great value for gesture studies, as we can come to understand how low-level gesture features (kinematics of gesture) relate to the higher-order organizational structures present at the level of discourse.
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Pouw, W., De Jonge-Hoekstra, L., Harrison, S. J., Paxton, A., & Dixon, J. A. (2020). Gesture-speech physics in fluent speech and rhythmic upper limb movements. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. Advance online publication. 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
Pouw, W., Paxton, A., Harrison, S. J., & Dixon, J. A. (2020). Reply to Ravignani and Kotz: Physical impulses from upper-limb movements impact the respiratory–vocal system. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 117(38), 23225-23226. doi:10.1073/pnas.2015452117.
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Rasenberg, M., Ozyurek, A., & Dingemanse, M. (2020). Alignment in multimodal interaction: An integrative framework. Cognitive Science, 44(11): e12911. doi:10.1111/cogs.12911.
AbstractWhen people are engaged in social interaction, they can repeat aspects of each other’s communicative behavior, such as words or gestures. This kind of behavioral alignment has been studied across a wide range of disciplines and has been accounted for by diverging theories. In this paper, we review various operationalizations of lexical and gestural alignment. We reveal that scholars have fundamentally different takes on when and how behavior is considered to be aligned, which makes it difficult to compare findings and draw uniform conclusions. Furthermore, we show that scholars tend to focus on one particular dimension of alignment (traditionally, whether two instances of behavior overlap in form), while other dimensions remain understudied. This hampers theory testing and building, which requires a well‐defined account of the factors that are central to or might enhance alignment. To capture the complex nature of alignment, we identify five key dimensions to formalize the relationship between any pair of behavior: time, sequence, meaning, form, and modality. We show how assumptions regarding the underlying mechanism of alignment (placed along the continuum of priming vs. grounding) pattern together with operationalizations in terms of the five dimensions. This integrative framework can help researchers in the field of alignment and related phenomena (including behavior matching, mimicry, entrainment, and accommodation) to formulate their hypotheses and operationalizations in a more transparent and systematic manner. The framework also enables us to discover unexplored research avenues and derive new hypotheses regarding alignment.
Rasenberg, M., Rommers, J., & Van Bergen, G. (2020). Anticipating predictability: An ERP investigation of expectation-managing discourse markers in dialogue comprehension. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 35(1), 1-16. doi:10.1080/23273798.2019.1624789.
Abstractn two ERP experiments, we investigated how the Dutch discourse markers eigenlijk “actually”, signalling expectation disconfirmation, and inderdaad “indeed”, signalling expectation confirmation, affect incremental dialogue comprehension. We investigated their effects on the processing of subsequent (un)predictable words, and on the quality of word representations in memory. Participants read dialogues with (un)predictable endings that followed a discourse marker (eigenlijk in Experiment 1, inderdaad in Experiment 2) or a control adverb. We found no strong evidence that discourse markers modulated online predictability effects elicited by subsequently read words. However, words following eigenlijk elicited an enhanced posterior post-N400 positivity compared with words following an adverb regardless of their predictability, potentially reflecting increased processing costs associated with pragmatically driven discourse updating. No effects of inderdaad were found on online processing, but inderdaad seemed to influence memory for (un)predictable dialogue endings. These findings nuance our understanding of how pragmatic markers affect incremental language comprehension.
Rasenberg, M., Dingemanse, M., & Ozyurek, A. (2020). Lexical and gestural alignment in interaction and the emergence of novel shared symbols. In A. Ravignani, C. Barbieri, M. Flaherty, Y. Jadoul, E. Lattenkamp, H. Little, M. Martins, K. Mudd, & T. Verhoef (
Eds.), The Evolution of Language: Proceedings of the 13th International Conference (Evolang13) (pp. 356-358). Nijmegen: The Evolution of Language Conferences.
Schubotz, L., Holler, J., Drijvers, L., & Ozyurek, A. (2020). Aging and working memory modulate the ability to benefit from visible speech and iconic gestures during speech-in-noise comprehension. Psychological Research. Advance online publication. doi:10.1007/s00426-020-01363-8.
AbstractWhen comprehending speech-in-noise (SiN), younger and older adults benefit from seeing the speaker’s mouth, i.e. visible speech. Younger adults additionally benefit from manual iconic co-speech gestures. Here, we investigate to what extent younger and older adults benefit from perceiving both visual articulators while comprehending SiN, and whether this is modulated by working memory and inhibitory control. Twenty-eight younger and 28 older adults performed a word recognition task in three visual contexts: mouth blurred (speech-only), visible speech, or visible speech + iconic gesture. The speech signal was either clear or embedded in multitalker babble. Additionally, there were two visual-only conditions (visible speech, visible speech + gesture). Accuracy levels for both age groups were higher when both visual articulators were present compared to either one or none. However, older adults received a significantly smaller benefit than younger adults, although they performed equally well in speech-only and visual-only word recognition. Individual differences in verbal working memory and inhibitory control partly accounted for age-related performance differences. To conclude, perceiving iconic gestures in addition to visible speech improves younger and older adults’ comprehension of SiN. Yet, the ability to benefit from this additional visual information is modulated by age and verbal working memory. Future research will have to show whether these findings extend beyond the single word level.
Additional informationsupplementary material
Sekine, K., Schoechl, C., Mulder, K., Holler, J., Kelly, S., Furman, R., & Ozyurek, A. (2020). Evidence for children's online integration of simultaneous information from speech and iconic gestures: An ERP study. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience. Advance online publication. doi:10.1080/23273798.2020.1737719.
AbstractChildren perceive iconic gestures, along with speech they hear. Previous studies have shown that children integrate information from both modalities. Yet it is not known whether children can integrate both types of information simultaneously as soon as they are available as adults do or processes them separately initially and integrate them later. Using electrophysiological measures, we examined the online neurocognitive processing of gesture-speech integration in 6- to 7-year-old children. We focused on the N400 event-related potentials component which is modulated by semantic integration load. Children watched video clips of matching or mismatching gesture-speech combinations, which varied the semantic integration load. The ERPs showed that the amplitude of the N400 was larger in the mismatching condition than in the matching condition. This finding provides the first neural evidence that by the ages of 6 or 7, children integrate multimodal semantic information in an online fashion comparable to that of adults.
Slonimska, A., Ozyurek, A., & Capirci, O. (2020). The role of iconicity and simultaneity for efficient communication: The case of Italian Sign Language (LIS). Cognition, 200: 104246. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2020.104246.
AbstractA fundamental assumption about language is that, regardless of language modality, it faces the linearization problem, i.e., an event that occurs simultaneously in the world has to be split in language to be organized on a temporal scale. However, the visual modality of signed languages allows its users not only to express meaning in a linear manner but also to use iconicity and multiple articulators together to encode information simultaneously. Accordingly, in cases when it is necessary to encode informatively rich events, signers can take advantage of simultaneous encoding in order to represent information about different referents and their actions simultaneously. This in turn would lead to more iconic and direct representation. Up to now, there has been no experimental study focusing on simultaneous encoding of information in signed languages and its possible advantage for efficient communication. In the present study, we assessed how many information units can be encoded simultaneously in Italian Sign Language (LIS) and whether the amount of simultaneously encoded information varies based on the amount of information that is required to be expressed. Twenty-three deaf adults participated in a director-matcher game in which they described 30 images of events that varied in amount of information they contained. Results revealed that as the information that had to be encoded increased, signers also increased use of multiple articulators to encode different information (i.e., kinematic simultaneity) and density of simultaneously encoded information in their production. Present findings show how the fundamental properties of signed languages, i.e., iconicity and simultaneity, are used for the purpose of efficient information encoding in Italian Sign Language (LIS).
Additional informationSupplementary data
Sumer, B., & Ozyurek, A. (2020). No effects of modality in development of locative expressions of space in signing and speaking children. Journal of Child Language, 47(6), 1101-1131. doi:10.1017/S0305000919000928.
AbstractLinguistic expressions of locative spatial relations in sign languages are mostly visually- motivated representations of space involving mapping of entities and spatial relations between them onto the hands and the signing space. These are also morphologically complex forms. It is debated whether modality-specific aspects of spatial expressions modulate spatial language development differently in signing compared to speaking children. In a picture description task, we compared the use of locative expressions for containment, support and occlusion relations by deaf children acquiring Turkish Sign Language and hearing children acquiring Turkish (3;5-9;11 years). Unlike previous reports suggesting a boosting effect of iconicity, and / or a hindering effect of morphological complexity of the locative forms in sign languages, our results show similar developmental patterns for signing and speaking children's acquisition of these forms. Our results suggest the primacy of cognitive development guiding the acquisition of locative expressions by speaking and signing children.
Trujillo, J. P., Simanova, I., Ozyurek, A., & Bekkering, H. (2020). Seeing the unexpected: How brains read communicative intent through kinematics. Cerebral Cortex, 30(3), 1056-1067. doi:10.1093/cercor/bhz148.
AbstractSocial interaction requires us to recognize subtle cues in behavior, such as kinematic differences in actions and gestures produced with different social intentions. Neuroscientific studies indicate that the putative mirror neuron system (pMNS) in the premotor cortex and mentalizing system (MS) in the medial prefrontal cortex support inferences about contextually unusual actions. However, little is known regarding the brain dynamics of these systems when viewing communicatively exaggerated kinematics. In an event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging experiment, 28 participants viewed stick-light videos of pantomime gestures, recorded in a previous study, which contained varying degrees of communicative exaggeration. Participants made either social or nonsocial classifications of the videos. Using participant responses and pantomime kinematics, we modeled the probability of each video being classified as communicative. Interregion connectivity and activity were modulated by kinematic exaggeration, depending on the task. In the Social Task, communicativeness of the gesture increased activation of several pMNS and MS regions and modulated top-down coupling from the MS to the pMNS, but engagement of the pMNS and MS was not found in the nonsocial task. Our results suggest that expectation violations can be a key cue for inferring communicative intention, extending previous findings from wholly unexpected actions to more subtle social signaling.
Trujillo, J. P., Simanova, I., Bekkering, H., & Ozyurek, A. (2020). The communicative advantage: How kinematic signaling supports semantic comprehension. Psychological Research, 84, 1897-1911. doi:10.1007/s00426-019-01198-y.
AbstractHumans are unique in their ability to communicate information through representational gestures which visually simulate an action (eg. moving hands as if opening a jar). Previous research indicates that the intention to communicate modulates the kinematics (e.g., velocity, size) of such gestures. If and how this modulation influences addressees’ comprehension of gestures have not been investigated. Here we ask whether communicative kinematic modulation enhances semantic comprehension (i.e., identification) of gestures. We additionally investigate whether any comprehension advantage is due to enhanced early identification or late identification. Participants (n = 20) watched videos of representational gestures produced in a more- (n = 60) or less-communicative (n = 60) context and performed a forced-choice recognition task. We tested the isolated role of kinematics by removing visibility of actor’s faces in Experiment I, and by reducing the stimuli to stick-light figures in Experiment II. Three video lengths were used to disentangle early identification from late identification. Accuracy and response time quantified main effects. Kinematic modulation was tested for correlations with task performance. We found higher gesture identification performance in more- compared to less-communicative gestures. However, early identification was only enhanced within a full visual context, while late identification occurred even when viewing isolated kinematics. Additionally, temporally segmented acts with more post-stroke holds were associated with higher accuracy. Our results demonstrate that communicative signaling, interacting with other visual cues, generally supports gesture identification, while kinematic modulation specifically enhances late identification in the absence of other cues. Results provide insights into mutual understanding processes as well as creating artificial communicative agents.
Additional informationSupplementary material
Van Arkel, J., Woensdregt, M., Dingemanse, M., & Blokpoel, M. (2020). A simple repair mechanism can alleviate computational demands of pragmatic reasoning: simulations and complexity analysis. In R. Fernández, & T. Linzen (
Eds.), Proceedings of the 24th Conference on Computational Natural Language Learning (CoNLL 2020) (pp. 177-194). Stroudsburg, PA, USA: The Association for Computational Linguistics.
AbstractHow can people communicate successfully while keeping resource costs low in the face of ambiguity? We present a principled theoretical analysis comparing two strategies for disambiguation in communication: (i) pragmatic reasoning, where communicators reason about each other, and (ii) other-initiated repair, where communicators signal and resolve trouble interactively. Using agent-based simulations and computational complexity analyses, we compare the efficiency of these strategies in terms of communicative success, computation cost and interaction cost. We show that agents with a simple repair mechanism can increase efficiency, compared to pragmatic agents, by reducing their computational burden at the cost of longer interactions. We also find that efficiency is highly contingent on the mechanism, highlighting the importance of explicit formalisation and computational rigour.
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.
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.