Multimodal reference tracking in Dutch and Turkish discourse: Role of culture and typological differences

Azar, Z., Backus, A., & Ozyurek, A. (2016). Multimodal reference tracking in Dutch and Turkish discourse: Role of culture and typological differences. Poster presented at the 7th Conference of the International Society for Gesture Studies (ISGS7), Paris, France.
Previous studies show that during discourse narrations, speakers use fuller forms in speech (e.g. full noun phrase (NP) and gesture more while referring back to already introduced referents and use reduced forms in speech (e.g. overt pronoun and null pronoun) and gesture less while maintaining referents (Gullberg, 2006; Yoshioko, 2008; Debreslioska et al., 2013; Perniss & Özyürek, 2015). Thus, quantity of coding material in speech and co-speech gesture shows parallelism. However, those studies focus mostly on Indo-European languages and we do not know much about whether the parallel relation between speech and co-speech gesture during discourse narration is generalizable to languages with different pronominal systems. Furthermore, these studies have not taken into account whether a language is used in a rich or low gesture culture as a possible modulating factor. Aiming to fill this gap, we directly compare multimodal discourse narrations in Turkish and Dutch; two languages that have different constraints on the use of overt pronoun (preferred in Dutch) versus null pronoun (preferred in Turkish) and vary in terms of whether gender is marked in the pronouns (Dutch) or not (Turkish). We elicited discourse narrations in Turkey and Netherlands from 40 speakers (20 Dutch; 20 Turkish) using 2 short silent videos. Each speaker was paired with a naive addressee during data collection. We first divided the discourse into main clauses. We then coded each animate subject referring expressions for the linguistic type (i.e., NP, pronoun, null pronoun) and the co-reference context (i.e., re-introduction, maintenance). As for the co-speech gesture data, we first coded all types of gestures in order to determine whether Turkish and Dutch cultures show difference in terms of the overall gesture rate (per clause). Later we focused on the abstract deictic gestures to space that temporally align with the subject referent of each main clause to calculate the proportion of gesturally marked subject referents. Our gesture rate analyses reveal that Turkish speakers overall produce more gestures than Dutch speakers (p<.001) suggesting that Turkish is a relatively high-gesture culture compared to Dutch. Our speech analyses show that both Turkish and Dutch speakers use mainly NPs to re-introduce subject referents and reduced forms for maintained referents (null pronoun for Turkish and overt pronoun for Dutch). Our gesture analyses show that both Turkish and Dutch speakers gestured more with re-introduced subject referents when compared to maintained subject referents (p<001). However, Turkish speakers gestured more frequently with pronouns than Dutch speakers. All results put together, we show that speakers of both languages organize information structure in discourse in similar manner and vary the quantity of coding material in their speech and gesture in parallel to mark the co-reference context, a discourse strategy independent of whether the speakers are from a relatively high or low gesture culture and regardless of the differences in the pronominal system of their languages. As a novel contribution, however, we show that pragmatics interacts with contextual and linguistic factors modulating gestures: Pragmatically marked forms in speech are more likely to be marked with gestures as well (more gestures with pronouns but not with NPs in Turkish compared to Dutch).
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