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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.
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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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., 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.
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, 35(10), 1283-1294. 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. doi:10.18653/v1/2020.conll-1.14.
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.
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.
Azar, Z., Backus, A., & Ozyurek, A. (2016). Pragmatic relativity: Gender and context affect the use of personal pronouns in discourse differentially across languages. In A. Papafragou, D. Grodner, D. Mirman, & J. Trueswell (
Eds.), Proceedings of the 38th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2016) (pp. 1295-1300). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.
AbstractSpeakers use differential referring expressions in pragmatically appropriate ways to produce coherent narratives. Languages, however, differ in a) whether REs as arguments can be dropped and b) whether personal pronouns encode gender. We examine two languages that differ from each other in these two aspects and ask whether the co-reference context and the gender encoding options affect the use of REs differentially. We elicited narratives from Dutch and Turkish speakers about two types of three-person events, one including people of the same and the other of mixed-gender. Speakers re-introduced referents into the discourse with fuller forms (NPs) and maintained them with reduced forms (overt or null pronoun). Turkish speakers used pronouns mainly to mark emphasis and only Dutch speakers used pronouns differentially across the two types of videos. We argue that linguistic possibilities available in languages tune speakers into taking different principles into account to produce pragmatically coherent narratives
Dimitrova, D. V., Chu, M., Wang, L., Ozyurek, A., & Hagoort, P. (2016). Beat that word: How listeners integrate beat gesture and focus in multimodal speech discourse. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 28(9), 1255-1269. doi:10.1162/jocn_a_00963.
AbstractCommunication is facilitated when listeners allocate their attention to important information (focus) in the message, a process called "information structure." Linguistic cues like the preceding context and pitch accent help listeners to identify focused information. In multimodal communication, relevant information can be emphasized by nonverbal cues like beat gestures, which represent rhythmic nonmeaningful hand movements. Recent studies have found that linguistic and nonverbal attention cues are integrated independently in single sentences. However, it is possible that these two cues interact when information is embedded in context, because context allows listeners to predict what information is important. In an ERP study, we tested this hypothesis and asked listeners to view videos capturing a dialogue. In the critical sentence, focused and nonfocused words were accompanied by beat gestures, grooming hand movements, or no gestures. ERP results showed that focused words are processed more attentively than nonfocused words as reflected in an N1 and P300 component. Hand movements also captured attention and elicited a P300 component. Importantly, beat gesture and focus interacted in a late time window of 600-900 msec relative to target word onset, giving rise to a late positivity when nonfocused words were accompanied by beat gestures. Our results show that listeners integrate beat gesture with the focus of the message and that integration costs arise when beat gesture falls on nonfocused information. This suggests that beat gestures fulfill a unique focusing function in multimodal discourse processing and that they have to be integrated with the information structure of the message.
Ortega, G., & Ozyurek, A. (2016). Generalisable patterns of gesture distinguish semantic categories in communication without language. In A. Papafragou, D. Grodner, D. Mirman, & J. Trueswell (
Eds.), Proceedings of the 38th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2016) (pp. 1182-1187). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.
AbstractThere is a long-standing assumption that gestural forms are geared by a set of modes of representation (acting, representing, drawing, moulding) with each technique expressing speakers’ focus of attention on specific aspects of referents (Müller, 2013). Beyond different taxonomies describing the modes of representation, it remains unclear what factors motivate certain depicting techniques over others. Results from a pantomime generation task show that pantomimes are not entirely idiosyncratic but rather follow generalisable patterns constrained by their semantic category. We show that a) specific modes of representations are preferred for certain objects (acting for manipulable objects and drawing for non-manipulable objects); and b) that use and ordering of deictics and modes of representation operate in tandem to distinguish between semantically related concepts (e.g., “to drink” vs “mug”). This study provides yet more evidence that our ability to communicate through silent gesture reveals systematic ways to describe events and objects around us
Sumer, B., Perniss, P. M., & Ozyurek, A. (2016). Viewpoint preferences in signing children's spatial descriptions. In J. Scott, & D. Waughtal (
Eds.), Proceedings of the 40th Annual Boston University Conference on Language Development (BUCLD 40) (pp. 360-374). Boston, MA: Cascadilla Press.