Simultaneity as an emergent property of efficient communication in language: A comparison of silent gesture and sign language
Slonimska, A., Ozyurek, A., & Capirci, O.
Simultaneity as an emergent property of efficient communication in language: A comparison of silent gesture and sign language. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science, 46
(5): 13133. doi:10.1111/cogs.13133.
Sign languages use multiple articulators and iconicity in the visual modality which allow linguistic units to be organized not only linearly but also simultaneously. Recent research has shown that users of an established sign language such as LIS (Italian Sign Language) use simultaneous and iconic constructions as a modality-specific resource to achieve communicative efficiency when they are required to encode informationally rich events. However, it remains to be explored whether the use of such simultaneous and iconic constructions recruited for communicative efficiency can be employed even without a linguistic system (i.e., in silent gesture) or whether they are specific to linguistic patterning (i.e., in LIS). In the present study, we conducted the same experiment as in Slonimska et al. with 23 Italian speakers using silent gesture and compared the results of the two studies. The findings showed that while simultaneity was afforded by the visual modality to some extent, its use in silent gesture was nevertheless less frequent and qualitatively different than when used within a linguistic system. Thus, the use of simultaneous and iconic constructions for communicative efficiency constitutes an emergent property of sign languages. The present study highlights the importance of studying modality-specific resources and their use for linguistic expression in order to promote a more thorough understanding of the language faculty and its modality-specific adaptive capabilities.
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