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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.
Karadöller, D. Z., Sumer, B., Ünal, E., & Ozyurek, A. (2021). Spatial language use predicts spatial memory of children: Evidence from sign, speech, and speech-plus-gesture. In T. Fitch, C. Lamm, H. Leder, & K. Teßmar-Raible (
Eds.), Proceedings of the 43rd Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2021) (pp. 672-678). Vienna: Cognitive Science Society.
AbstractThere is a strong relation between children’s exposure to spatial terms and their later memory accuracy. In the current study, we tested whether the production of spatial terms by children themselves predicts memory accuracy and whether and how language modality of these encodings modulates memory accuracy differently. Hearing child speakers of Turkish and deaf child signers of Turkish Sign Language described pictures of objects in various spatial relations to each other and later tested for their memory accuracy of these pictures in a surprise memory task. We found that having described the spatial relation between the objects predicted better memory accuracy. However, the modality of these descriptions in sign, speech, or speech-plus-gesture did not reveal differences in memory accuracy. We discuss the implications of these findings for the relation between spatial language, memory, and the modality of encoding.
Mamus, E., Speed, L. J., Ozyurek, A., & Majid, A. (2021). Sensory modality of input influences encoding of motion events in speech but not co-speech gestures. In T. Fitch, C. Lamm, H. Leder, & K. Teßmar-Raible (
Eds.), Proceedings of the 43rd Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2021) (pp. 376-382). Vienna: Cognitive Science Society.
AbstractVisual and auditory channels have different affordances and this is mirrored in what information is available for linguistic encoding. The visual channel has high spatial acuity, whereas the auditory channel has better temporal acuity. These differences may lead to different conceptualizations of events and affect multimodal language production. Previous studies of motion events typically present visual input to elicit speech and gesture. The present study compared events presented as audio- only, visual-only, or multimodal (visual+audio) input and assessed speech and co-speech gesture for path and manner of motion in Turkish. Speakers with audio-only input mentioned path more and manner less in verbal descriptions, compared to speakers who had visual input. There was no difference in the type or frequency of gestures across conditions, and gestures were dominated by path-only gestures. This suggests that input modality influences speakers’ encoding of path and manner of motion events in speech, but not in co-speech gestures.
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
Pouw, W., Wit, J., Bögels, S., Rasenberg, M., Milivojevic, B., & Ozyurek, A. (2021). Semantically related gestures move alike: Towards a distributional semantics of gesture kinematics. In V. G. Duffy (
Ed.), Digital human modeling and applications in health, safety, ergonomics and risk management. human body, motion and behavior:12th International Conference, DHM 2021, Held as Part of the 23rd HCI International Conference, HCII 2021 (pp. 269-287). Berlin: Springer. doi:10.1007/978-3-030-77817-0_20.
Pouw, W., Dingemanse, M., Motamedi, Y., & Ozyurek, A. (2021). A systematic investigation of gesture kinematics in evolving manual languages in the lab. Cognitive Science, 45(7): e13014. doi:10.1111/cogs.13014.
AbstractSilent gestures consist of complex multi-articulatory movements but are now primarily studied through categorical coding of the referential gesture content. The relation of categorical linguistic content with continuous kinematics is therefore poorly understood. Here, we reanalyzed the video data from a gestural evolution experiment (Motamedi, Schouwstra, Smith, Culbertson, & Kirby, 2019), which showed increases in the systematicity of gesture content over time. We applied computer vision techniques to quantify the kinematics of the original data. Our kinematic analyses demonstrated that gestures become more efficient and less complex in their kinematics over generations of learners. We further detect the systematicity of gesture form on the level of thegesture kinematic interrelations, which directly scales with the systematicity obtained on semantic coding of the gestures. Thus, from continuous kinematics alone, we can tap into linguistic aspects that were previously only approachable through categorical coding of meaning. Finally, going beyond issues of systematicity, we show how unique gesture kinematic dialects emerged over generations as isolated chains of participants gradually diverged over iterations from other chains. We, thereby, conclude that gestures can come to embody the linguistic system at the level of interrelationships between communicative tokens, which should calibrate our theories about form and linguistic content.
Slonimska, A., Ozyurek, A., & Capirci, O. (2021). Using depiction for efficient communication in LIS (Italian Sign Language). Language and Cognition. Advance online publication. doi:10.1017/langcog.2021.7.
AbstractMeanings communicated with depictions constitute an integral part of how speakers and signers actually use language (Clark, 2016). Recent studies have argued that, in sign languages, depicting strategy like constructed action (CA), in which a signer enacts the referent, is used for referential purposes in narratives. Here, we tested the referential function of CA in a more controlled experimental setting and outside narrative context. Given the iconic properties of CA we hypothesized that this strategy could be used for efficient information transmission. Thus, we asked if use of CA increased with the increase in the information required to be communicated. Twenty-three deaf signers of LIS described unconnected images, which varied in the amount of information represented, to another player in a director–matcher game. Results revealed that participants used CA to communicate core information about the images and also increased the use of CA as images became informatively denser. The findings show that iconic features of CA can be used for referential function in addition to its depictive function outside narrative context and to achieve communicative efficiency.
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).