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Dingemanse, M. (2018). Redrawing the margins of language: Lessons from research on ideophones. Glossa: a journal of general linguistics, 3(1): 4. doi:10.5334/gjgl.444.
AbstractIdeophones (also known as expressives or mimetics, and including onomatopoeia) have been systematically studied in linguistics since the 1850s, when they were first described as a lexical class of vivid sensory words in West-African languages. This paper surveys the research history of ideophones, from its roots in African linguistics to its fruits in general linguistics and typology around the globe. It shows that despite a recurrent narrative of marginalisation, work on ideophones has made an impact in many areas of linguistics, from theories of phonological features to typologies of manner and motion, and from sound symbolism to sensory language. Due to their hybrid nature as gradient vocal gestures that grow roots in discrete linguistic systems, ideophones provide opportunities to reframe typological questions, reconsider the role of language ideology in linguistic scholarship, and rethink the margins of language. With ideophones increasingly being brought into the fold of the language sciences, this review synthesises past theoretical insights and empirical findings in order to enable future work to build on them.
Drijvers, L., Ozyurek, A., & Jensen, O. (2018). Alpha and beta oscillations index semantic congruency between speech and gestures in clear and degraded speech. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 30(8), 1086-1097. doi:10.1162/jocn_a_01301.
AbstractPrevious work revealed that visual semantic information conveyed by gestures can enhance degraded speech comprehension, but the mechanisms underlying these integration processes under adverse listening conditions remain poorly understood. We used MEG to investigate how oscillatory dynamics support speech–gesture integration when integration load is manipulated by auditory (e.g., speech degradation) and visual semantic (e.g., gesture congruency) factors. Participants were presented with videos of an actress uttering an action verb in clear or degraded speech, accompanied by a matching (mixing gesture + “mixing”) or mismatching (drinking gesture + “walking”) gesture. In clear speech, alpha/beta power was more suppressed in the left inferior frontal gyrus and motor and visual cortices when integration load increased in response to mismatching versus matching gestures. In degraded speech, beta power was less suppressed over posterior STS and medial temporal lobe for mismatching compared with matching gestures, showing that integration load was lowest when speech was degraded and mismatching gestures could not be integrated and disambiguate the degraded signal. Our results thus provide novel insights on how low-frequency oscillatory modulations in different parts of the cortex support the semantic audiovisual integration of gestures in clear and degraded speech: When speech is clear, the left inferior frontal gyrus and motor and visual cortices engage because higher-level semantic information increases semantic integration load. When speech is degraded, posterior STS/middle temporal gyrus and medial temporal lobe are less engaged because integration load is lowest when visual semantic information does not aid lexical retrieval and speech and gestures cannot be integrated.
Drijvers, L., Ozyurek, A., & Jensen, O. (2018). Hearing and seeing meaning in noise: Alpha, beta and gamma oscillations predict gestural enhancement of degraded speech comprehension. Human Brain Mapping, 39(5), 2075-2087. doi:10.1002/hbm.23987.
AbstractDuring face-to-face communication, listeners integrate speech with gestures. The semantic information conveyed by iconic gestures (e.g., a drinking gesture) can aid speech comprehension in adverse listening conditions. In this magnetoencephalography (MEG) study, we investigated the spatiotemporal neural oscillatory activity associated with gestural enhancement of degraded speech comprehension. Participants watched videos of an actress uttering clear or degraded speech, accompanied by a gesture or not and completed a cued-recall task after watching every video. When gestures semantically disambiguated degraded speech comprehension, an alpha and beta power suppression and a gamma power increase revealed engagement and active processing in the hand-area of the motor cortex, the extended language network (LIFG/pSTS/STG/MTG), medial temporal lobe, and occipital regions. These observed low- and high-frequency oscillatory modulations in these areas support general unification, integration and lexical access processes during online language comprehension, and simulation of and increased visual attention to manual gestures over time. All individual oscillatory power modulations associated with gestural enhancement of degraded speech comprehension predicted a listener's correct disambiguation of the degraded verb after watching the videos. Our results thus go beyond the previously proposed role of oscillatory dynamics in unimodal degraded speech comprehension and provide first evidence for the role of low- and high-frequency oscillations in predicting the integration of auditory and visual information at a semantic level.
Drijvers, L., & Ozyurek, A. (2018). Native language status of the listener modulates the neural integration of speech and iconic gestures in clear and adverse listening conditions. Brain and Language, 177-178, 7-17. doi:10.1016/j.bandl.2018.01.003.
AbstractNative listeners neurally integrate iconic gestures with speech, which can enhance degraded speech comprehension. However, it is unknown how non-native listeners neurally integrate speech and gestures, as they might process visual semantic context differently than natives. We recorded EEG while native and highly-proficient non-native listeners watched videos of an actress uttering an action verb in clear or degraded speech, accompanied by a matching ('to drive'+driving gesture) or mismatching gesture ('to drink'+mixing gesture). Degraded speech elicited an enhanced N400 amplitude compared to clear speech in both groups, revealing an increase in neural resources needed to resolve the spoken input. A larger N400 effect was found in clear speech for non-natives compared to natives, but in degraded speech only for natives. Non-native listeners might thus process gesture more strongly than natives when speech is clear, but need more auditory cues to facilitate access to gestural semantic information when speech is degraded.
Floyd, S., Rossi, G., Baranova, J., Blythe, J., Dingemanse, M., Kendrick, K. H., Zinken, J., & Enfield, N. J. (2018). Universals and cultural diversity in the expression of gratitude. Royal Society Open Science, 5: 180391. doi:10.1098/rsos.180391.
AbstractGratitude is argued to have evolved to motivate and maintain social reciprocity among people, and to be linked to a wide range of positive effects — social, psychological, and even physical. But is socially reciprocal behaviour dependent on the expression of gratitude, for example by saying "thank you" as in English? Current research has not included cross-cultural elements, and has tended to conflate gratitude as an emotion with gratitude as a linguistic practice, as might appear to be the case in English. Here we ask to what extent people actually express gratitude in different societies by focussing on episodes of everyday life where someone obtains a good, service, or support from another, and comparing these episodes across eight languages from five continents. What we find is that expressions of gratitude in these episodes are remarkably rare, suggesting that social reciprocity in everyday life relies on tacit understandings of people’s rights and duties surrounding mutual assistance and collaboration. At the same time, we also find minor cross-cultural variation, with slightly higher rates in Western European languages English and Italian, showing that universal tendencies of social reciprocity should not be conflated with more culturally variable practices of expressing gratitude. Our study complements previous experimental and culture-specific research on social reciprocity with a systematic comparison of audiovisual corpora of naturally occurring social interaction from different cultures from around the world.
Majid, A., Roberts, S. G., Cilissen, L., Emmorey, K., Nicodemus, B., O'Grady, L., Woll, B., LeLan, B., De Sousa, H., Cansler, B. L., Shayan, S., De Vos, C., Senft, G., Enfield, N. J., Razak, R. A., Fedden, S., Tufvesson, S., Dingemanse, M., Ozturk, O., Brown, P. and 6 moreMajid, A., Roberts, S. G., Cilissen, L., Emmorey, K., Nicodemus, B., O'Grady, L., Woll, B., LeLan, B., De Sousa, H., Cansler, B. L., Shayan, S., De Vos, C., Senft, G., Enfield, N. J., Razak, R. A., Fedden, S., Tufvesson, S., Dingemanse, M., Ozturk, O., Brown, P., Hill, C., Le Guen, O., Hirtzel, V., Van Gijn, R., Sicoli, M. A., & Levinson, S. C. (2018). Differential coding of perception in the world’s languages. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 115(45), 11369-11376. doi:10.1073/pnas.1720419115.
AbstractIs there a universal hierarchy of the senses, such that some senses (e.g., vision) are more accessible to consciousness and linguistic description than others (e.g., smell)? The long-standing presumption in Western thought has been that vision and audition are more objective than the other senses, serving as the basis of knowledge and understanding, whereas touch, taste, and smell are crude and of little value. This predicts that humans ought to be better at communicating about sight and hearing than the other senses, and decades of work based on English and related languages certainly suggests this is true. However, how well does this reflect the diversity of languages and communities worldwide? To test whether there is a universal hierarchy of the senses, stimuli from the five basic senses were used to elicit descriptions in 20 diverse languages, including 3 unrelated sign languages. We found that languages differ fundamentally in which sensory domains they linguistically code systematically, and how they do so. The tendency for better coding in some domains can be explained in part by cultural preoccupations. Although languages seem free to elaborate specific sensory domains, some general tendencies emerge: for example, with some exceptions, smell is poorly coded. The surprise is that, despite the gradual phylogenetic accumulation of the senses, and the imbalances in the neural tissue dedicated to them, no single hierarchy of the senses imposes itself upon language.
Trujillo, J. P., Simanova, I., Bekkering, H., & Ozyurek, A. (2018). Communicative intent modulates production and perception of actions and gestures: A Kinect study. Cognition, 180, 38-51. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2018.04.003.
AbstractActions may be used to directly act on the world around us, or as a means of communication. Effective communication requires the addressee to recognize the act as being communicative. Humans are sensitive to ostensive communicative cues, such as direct eye gaze (Csibra & Gergely, 2009). However, there may be additional cues present in the action or gesture itself. Here we investigate features that characterize the initiation of a communicative interaction in both production and comprehension. We asked 40 participants to perform 31 pairs of object-directed actions and representational gestures in more- or less- communicative contexts. Data were collected using motion capture technology for kinematics and video recording for eye-gaze. With these data, we focused on two issues. First, if and how actions and gestures are systematically modulated when performed in a communicative context. Second, if observers exploit such kinematic information to classify an act as communicative. Our study showed that during production the communicative context modulates space–time dimensions of kinematics and elicits an increase in addressee-directed eye-gaze. Naïve participants detected communicative intent in actions and gestures preferentially using eye-gaze information, only utilizing kinematic information when eye-gaze was unavailable. Our study highlights the general communicative modulation of action and gesture kinematics during production but also shows that addressees only exploit this modulation to recognize communicative intention in the absence of eye-gaze. We discuss these findings in terms of distinctive but potentially overlapping functions of addressee directed eye-gaze and kinematic modulations within the wider context of human communication and learning.
Azar, Z., & Ozyurek, A. (2015). Discourse Management: Reference tracking in speech and gesture in Turkish narratives. Dutch Journal of Applied Linguistics, 4(2), 222-240. doi:10.1075/dujal.4.2.06aza.
AbstractSpeakers achieve coherence in discourse by alternating between differential lexical forms e.g. noun phrase, pronoun, and null form in accordance with the accessibility of the entities they refer to, i.e. whether they introduce an entity into discourse for the first time or continue referring to an entity they already mentioned before. Moreover, tracking of entities in discourse is a multimodal phenomenon. Studies show that speakers are sensitive to the informational structure of discourse and use fuller forms (e.g. full noun phrases) in speech and gesture more when re-introducing an entity while they use attenuated forms (e.g. pronouns) in speech and gesture less when maintaining a referent. However, those studies focus mainly on non-pro-drop languages (e.g. English, German and French). The present study investigates whether the same pattern holds for pro-drop languages. It draws data from adult native speakers of Turkish using elicited narratives. We find that Turkish speakers mostly use fuller forms to code subject referents in re-introduction context and the null form in maintenance context and they point to gesture space for referents more in re-introduction context compared maintained context. Hence we provide supportive evidence for the reverse correlation between the accessibility of a discourse referent and its coding in speech and gesture. We also find that, as a novel contribution, third person pronoun is used in re-introduction context only when the referent was previously mentioned as the object argument of the immediately preceding clause.
Goldin-Meadow, S., Namboodiripad, S., Mylander, C., Ozyurek, A., & Sancar, B. (2015). The resilience of structure built around the predicate: Homesign gesture systems in Turkish and American deaf children. Journal of Cognition and Development, 16, 55-80. doi:10.1080/15248372.2013.803970.
AbstractDeaf children whose hearing losses prevent them from accessing spoken language and whose hearing parents have not exposed them to sign language develop gesture systems, called homesigns, which have many of the properties of natural language—the so-called resilient properties of language. We explored the resilience of structure built around the predicate—in particular, how manner and path are mapped onto the verb—in homesign systems developed by deaf children in Turkey and the United States. We also asked whether the Turkish homesigners exhibit sentence-level structures previously identified as resilient in American and Chinese homesigners. We found that the Turkish and American deaf children used not only the same production probability and ordering patterns to indicate who does what to whom, but also used the same segmentation and conflation patterns to package manner and path. The gestures that the hearing parents produced did not, for the most part, display the patterns found in the children's gestures. Although cospeech gesture may provide the building blocks for homesign, it does not provide the blueprint for these resilient properties of language.
Holler, J., Kokal, I., Toni, I., Hagoort, P., Kelly, S. D., & Ozyurek, A. (2015). Eye’m talking to you: Speakers’ gaze direction modulates co-speech gesture processing in the right MTG. Social Cognitive & Affective Neuroscience, 10, 255-261. doi:10.1093/scan/nsu047.
AbstractRecipients process information from speech and co-speech gestures, but it is currently unknown how this processing is influenced by the presence of other important social cues, especially gaze direction, a marker of communicative intent. Such cues may modulate neural activity in regions associated either with the processing of ostensive cues, such as eye gaze, or with the processing of semantic information, provided by speech and gesture. Participants were scanned (fMRI) while taking part in triadic communication involving two recipients and a speaker. The speaker uttered sentences that were and were not accompanied by complementary iconic gestures. Crucially, the speaker alternated her gaze direction, thus creating two recipient roles: addressed (direct gaze) vs unaddressed (averted gaze) recipient. The comprehension of Speech&Gesture relative to SpeechOnly utterances recruited middle occipital, middle temporal and inferior frontal gyri, bilaterally. The calcarine sulcus and posterior cingulate cortex were sensitive to differences between direct and averted gaze. Most importantly, Speech&Gesture utterances, but not SpeechOnly utterances, produced additional activity in the right middle temporal gyrus when participants were addressed. Marking communicative intent with gaze direction modulates the processing of speech–gesture utterances in cerebral areas typically associated with the semantic processing of multi-modal communicative acts.
Kelly, S., Healey, M., Ozyurek, A., & Holler, J. (2015). The processing of speech, gesture and action during language comprehension. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 22, 517-523. doi:10.3758/s13423-014-0681-7.
AbstractHand gestures and speech form a single integrated system of meaning during language comprehension, but is gesture processed with speech in a unique fashion? We had subjects watch multimodal videos that presented auditory (words) and visual (gestures and actions on objects) information. Half of the subjects related the audio information to a written prime presented before the video, and the other half related the visual information to the written prime. For half of the multimodal video stimuli, the audio and visual information contents were congruent, and for the other half, they were incongruent. For all subjects, stimuli in which the gestures and actions were incongruent with the speech produced more errors and longer response times than did stimuli that were congruent, but this effect was less prominent for speech-action stimuli than for speech-gesture stimuli. However, subjects focusing on visual targets were more accurate when processing actions than gestures. These results suggest that although actions may be easier to process than gestures, gestures may be more tightly tied to the processing of accompanying speech.
Ozyurek, A., Furman, R., & Goldin-Meadow, S. (2015). On the way to language: Event segmentation in homesign and gesture. Journal of Child Language, 42, 64-94. doi:10.1017/S0305000913000512.
AbstractLanguages typically express semantic components of motion events such as manner (roll) and path (down) in separate lexical items. We explore how these combinatorial possibilities of language arise by focusing on (i) gestures produced by deaf children who lack access to input from a conventional language (homesign); (ii) gestures produced by hearing adults and children while speaking; and (iii) gestures used by hearing adults without speech when asked to do so in elicited descriptions of motion events with simultaneous manner and path. Homesigners tended to conflate manner and path in one gesture, but also used a mixed form, adding a manner and/or path gesture to the conflated form sequentially. Hearing speakers, with or without speech, used the conflated form, gestured manner, or path, but rarely used the mixed form. Mixed form may serve as an intermediate structure on the way to the discrete and sequenced forms found in natural languages.
Peeters, D., Chu, M., Holler, J., Hagoort, P., & Ozyurek, A. (2015). Electrophysiological and kinematic correlates of communicative intent in the planning and production of pointing gestures and speech. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 27(12), 2352-2368. doi:10.1162/jocn_a_00865.
AbstractIn everyday human communication, we often express our communicative intentions by manually pointing out referents in the material world around us to an addressee, often in tight synchronization with referential speech. This study investigated whether and how the kinematic form of index finger pointing gestures is shaped by the gesturer's communicative intentions and how this is modulated by the presence of concurrently produced speech. Furthermore, we explored the neural mechanisms underpinning the planning of communicative pointing gestures and speech. Two experiments were carried out in which participants pointed at referents for an addressee while the informativeness of their gestures and speech was varied. Kinematic and electrophysiological data were recorded online. It was found that participants prolonged the duration of the stroke and poststroke hold phase of their gesture to be more communicative, in particular when the gesture was carrying the main informational burden in their multimodal utterance. Frontal and P300 effects in the ERPs suggested the importance of intentional and modality-independent attentional mechanisms during the planning phase of informative pointing gestures. These findings contribute to a better understanding of the complex interplay between action, attention, intention, and language in the production of pointing gestures, a communicative act core to human interaction.
Peeters, D., Hagoort, P., & Ozyurek, A. (2015). Electrophysiological evidence for the role of shared space in online comprehension of spatial demonstratives. Cognition, 136, 64-84. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2014.10.010.
AbstractA fundamental property of language is that it can be used to refer to entities in the extra-linguistic physical context of a conversation in order to establish a joint focus of attention on a referent. Typological and psycholinguistic work across a wide range of languages has put forward at least two different theoretical views on demonstrative reference. Here we contrasted and tested these two accounts by investigating the electrophysiological brain activity underlying the construction of indexical meaning in comprehension. In two EEG experiments, participants watched pictures of a speaker who referred to one of two objects using speech and an index-finger pointing gesture. In contrast with separately collected native speakers’ linguistic intuitions, N400 effects showed a preference for a proximal demonstrative when speaker and addressee were in a face-to-face orientation and all possible referents were located in the shared space between them, irrespective of the physical proximity of the referent to the speaker. These findings reject egocentric proximity-based accounts of demonstrative reference, support a sociocentric approach to deixis, suggest that interlocutors construe a shared space during conversation, and imply that the psychological proximity of a referent may be more important than its physical proximity.
Peeters, D., Snijders, T. M., Hagoort, P., & Ozyurek, A. (2015). The role of left inferior frontal Gyrus in the integration of point- ing gestures and speech. In G. Ferré, & M. Tutton (
Eds.), Proceedings of the4th GESPIN - Gesture & Speech in Interaction Conference. Nantes: Université de Nantes.
AbstractComprehension of pointing gestures is fundamental to human communication. However, the neural mechanisms that subserve the integration of pointing gestures and speech in visual contexts in comprehension are unclear. Here we present the results of an fMRI study in which participants watched images of an actor pointing at an object while they listened to her referential speech. The use of a mismatch paradigm revealed that the semantic unication of pointing gesture and speech in a triadic context recruits left inferior frontal gyrus. Complementing previous ndings, this suggests that left inferior frontal gyrus semantically integrates information across modalities and semiotic domains.
Perniss, P. M., Zwitserlood, I., & Ozyurek, A. (2015). Does space structure spatial language? A comparison of spatial expression across sign languages. Language, 91(3), 611-641.
AbstractThe spatial affordances of the visual modality give rise to a high degree of similarity between sign languages in the spatial domain. This stands in contrast to the vast structural and semantic diversity in linguistic encoding of space found in spoken languages. However, the possibility and nature of linguistic diversity in spatial encoding in sign languages has not been rigorously investigated by systematic crosslinguistic comparison. Here, we compare locative expression in two unrelated sign languages, Turkish Sign Language (Türk İşaret Dili, TİD) and German Sign Language (Deutsche Gebärdensprache, DGS), focusing on the expression of figure-ground (e.g. cup on table) and figure-figure (e.g. cup next to cup) relationships in a discourse context. In addition to similarities, we report qualitative and quantitative differences between the sign languages in the formal devices used (i.e. unimanual vs. bimanual; simultaneous vs. sequential) and in the degree of iconicity of the spatial devices. Our results suggest that sign languages may display more diversity in the spatial domain than has been previously assumed, and in a way more comparable with the diversity found in spoken languages. The study contributes to a more comprehensive understanding of how space gets encoded in language
Perniss, P. M., Ozyurek, A., & Morgan, G. (2015). The Influence of the visual modality on language structure and conventionalization: Insights from sign language and gesture. Topics in Cognitive Science, 7(1), 2-11. doi:10.1111/tops.12127.
AbstractFor humans, the ability to communicate and use language is instantiated not only in the vocal modality but also in the visual modality. The main examples of this are sign languages and (co-speech) gestures. Sign languages, the natural languages of Deaf communities, use systematic and conventionalized movements of the hands, face, and body for linguistic expression. Co-speech gestures, though non-linguistic, are produced in tight semantic and temporal integration with speech and constitute an integral part of language together with speech. The articles in this issue explore and document how gestures and sign languages are similar or different and how communicative expression in the visual modality can change from being gestural to grammatical in nature through processes of conventionalization. As such, this issue contributes to our understanding of how the visual modality shapes language and the emergence of linguistic structure in newly developing systems. Studying the relationship between signs and gestures provides a new window onto the human ability to recruit multiple levels of representation (e.g., categorical, gradient, iconic, abstract) in the service of using or creating conventionalized communicative systems.
Perniss, P. M., & Ozyurek, A. (2015). Visible cohesion: A comparison of reference tracking in sign, speech, and co-speech gesture. Topics in Cognitive Science, 7(1), 36-60. doi:10.1111/tops.12122.
AbstractEstablishing and maintaining reference is a crucial part of discourse. In spoken languages, differential linguistic devices mark referents occurring in different referential contexts, that is, introduction, maintenance, and re-introduction contexts. Speakers using gestures as well as users of sign languages have also been shown to mark referents differentially depending on the referential context. This article investigates the modality-specific contribution of the visual modality in marking referential context by providing a direct comparison between sign language (German Sign Language; DGS) and co-speech gesture with speech (German) in elicited narratives. Across all forms of expression, we find that referents in subject position are referred to with more marking material in re-introduction contexts compared to maintenance contexts. Furthermore, we find that spatial modification is used as a modality-specific strategy in both DGS and German co-speech gesture, and that the configuration of referent locations in sign space and gesture space corresponds in an iconic and consistent way to the locations of referents in the narrated event. However, we find that spatial modification is used in different ways for marking re-introduction and maintenance contexts in DGS and German co-speech gesture. The findings are discussed in relation to the unique contribution of the visual modality to reference tracking in discourse when it is used in a unimodal system with full linguistic structure (i.e., as in sign) versus in a bimodal system that is a composite of speech and gesture
Schubotz, L., Holler, J., & Ozyurek, A. (2015). Age-related differences in multi-modal audience design: Young, but not old speakers, adapt speech and gestures to their addressee's knowledge. In G. Ferré, & M. Tutton (
Eds.), Proceedings of the 4th GESPIN - Gesture & Speech in Interaction Conference (pp. 211-216). Nantes: Université of Nantes.
AbstractSpeakers can adapt their speech and co-speech gestures for addressees. Here, we investigate whether this ability is modulated by age. Younger and older adults participated in a comic narration task in which one participant (the speaker) narrated six short comic stories to another participant (the addressee). One half of each story was known to both participants, the other half only to the speaker. Younger but not older speakers used more words and gestures when narrating novel story content as opposed to known content. We discuss cognitive and pragmatic explanations of these findings and relate them to theories of gesture production.
Slonimska, A., Ozyurek, A., & Campisi, E. (2015). Ostensive signals: markers of communicative relevance of gesture during demonstration to adults and children. In G. Ferré, & M. Tutton (
Eds.), Proceedings of the 4th GESPIN - Gesture & Speech in Interaction Conference (pp. 217-222). Nantes: Universite of Nantes.
AbstractSpeakers adapt their speech and gestures in various ways for their audience. We investigated further whether they use ostensive signals (eye gaze, ostensive speech (e.g. like this, this) or a combination of both) in relation to their gestures when talking to different addressees, i.e., to another adult or a child in a multimodal demonstration task. While adults used more eye gaze towards their gestures with other adults than with children, they were more likely to use combined ostensive signals for children than for adults. Thus speakers mark the communicative relevance of their gestures with different types of ostensive signals and by taking different types of addressees into account.