Iconicity and gesture jointly facilitate learning of L2 signs at first exposure in hearing non-signers
When learning a spoken second language (L2), words overlapping in form and meaning with one’s native language (L1) help break into the new language. When non-signing speakers learn a sign language as L2, such forms are absent because of the modality differences (L1:speech, L2:sign). In such cases, non-signing speakers might use iconic form-meaning mappings in signs or their own gestural experience as gateways into the to-be-acquired sign language. Here, we investigated how both these factors may contribute jointly to the acquisition of sign language vocabulary by hearing non-signers. Participants were presented with three types of sign in NGT (Sign Language of the Netherlands): arbitrary signs, iconic signs with high or low gesture overlap. Signs that were both iconic and highly overlapping with gestures boosted learning most at first exposure, and this effect remained the day after. Findings highlight the influence of modality-specific factors supporting the acquisition of a signed lexicon.
Publication typeJournal article