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Asli Özyürek gives inaugural lecture on May 26

Since September 2010, Asli Özyürek (RU Nijmegen and MPI) has been Professor of Gesture, Language and Cognition at the Radboud University Nijmegen. On May 26, 2011 at 15:45, she will give an inaugural lecture in the Aula of the Radboud University.
Asli Özyürek gives inaugural lecture on May 26

May 24, 2011

For fifteen years now, Asli Özyürek (Turkey, 1967) has been studying language within the context of gestures, especially focussing on iconic gestures. This new research perspective on language has generated new knowledge and publications in top journals such as Science.

According to Özyürek, language without gestures seems inconceivable. “In a conversation we use a lot of meaningful bodily actions, like hand gestures. We convey meaning with our hands. This meaning is relevant to the things we say and actually reveals more than what we say. We can learn a lot from this new window on language, communication and cognition.”

Blind people also gesture

Gestures seem to play a crucial role in language processing. "It is almost impossible not to gesture when you talk, even blind people gesture while they're talking to other blind people and on the phone. People gesture to get their message across as they do when they talk. When you tell someone you are cutting something while making a cutting motion, the message is understood more accurately and remembered longer."

Double essence of language

There is more and more evidence in the cognitive sciences that our bodily and sensory motor experiences play a role in language structure, semantics and their processing, Özyürek concludes. "What my research and that of others has recently shown is converging evidence for this by looking at meaningful visible actions people use during language use -- in gestures used along with spoken languages or in signed languages."

"In my inaugural lecture, I will try to spell out how meaningful visible bodily actions interface with abstract linguistic structures and their processing -- reflecting double essences of language. Simply put, we can learn a lot about language, communication and cognition by looking at how we 'act' in communication rather than only looking at what we 'say'."

For more information see also Özyürek's personal page at MPI.
Language in our hands: the role of body in language, cognition and communication. Inaugural lecture, Asli Özyürek, Professor of Gesture, Language and Cognition at the Radboud University Nijmegen.

See also this news item (in Dutch) on RU's website.
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The Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics is an institute of the German Max Planck Society. Our mission is to undertake basic research into the psychological,social and biological foundations of language. The goal is to understand how our minds and brains process language, how language interacts with other aspects of mind, and how we can learn languages of quite different types.

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