A tale of two modalities: Sign and speech influence in each other in bimodal bilinguals

Manhardt, F., Brouwer, S., & Ozyurek, A. (2021). A tale of two modalities: Sign and speech influence in each other in bimodal bilinguals. Psychological Science, 32(3), 424-436. doi:10.1177/0956797620968789.
Bimodal bilinguals are hearing individuals fluent in a sign and a spoken language. Can the two languages influence each other in such individuals despite differences in the visual (sign) and vocal (speech) modalities of expression? We investigated cross-linguistic influences on bimodal bilinguals’ expression of spatial relations. Unlike spoken languages, sign uses iconic linguistic forms that resemble physical features of objects in a spatial relation and thus expresses specific semantic information. Hearing bimodal bilinguals (n = 21) fluent in Dutch and Sign Language of the Netherlands and their hearing nonsigning and deaf signing peers (n = 20 each) described left/right relations between two objects. Bimodal bilinguals expressed more specific information about physical features of objects in speech than nonsigners, showing influence from sign language. They also used fewer iconic signs with specific semantic information than deaf signers, demonstrating influence from speech. Bimodal bilinguals’ speech and signs are shaped by two languages from different modalities.
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