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PSY274H5 Lecture Notes - British Sign Language, French Sign Language, Spoken Language

Course Code
Craig Chambers

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270 – Human Communications
Sign Language
Icon, index and symbol are all signs.
Sign is used in different ways.
Linguistic communication
1. Vocal-auditory channel
2. Manual-visual channel (communicating using
All cultures use spoken language.
What are the situations that make the vocal auditory
channel dominant?
Many evolutionary theorists argue that it is the
manual visual channel that should be dominant. The
‘Academy Francaise prohibited any discussion of this
stupid because it was so unscientific and speculative.
A wolf howling etc was the origin of language. People
said humans were imitating the sounds of the
We see so many cases in the animal kingdom where
animals communicated through a visual manner. Was
this what got linguistic communication on its way?
Imagine gestural behavior was the origin of language.
What would have driven the auditory channel?
1. Maybe it’s different with the manual system to
communicate things.
2. Sometimes you could spend the entire day in

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darkness depending on where you are so the
visual channel becomes useless.
3. What things are you doing simultaneously while
trying to communicate? Like hunting etc.
4. It might be faster to use the vocal auditory
5. Communicating information might be more
effective through the auditory channel.
6. The person may not be visible so you might need
to ‘voice’ it out.
7. Vocalization is a better strategy in terms of
danger to get someone’s attention.
The relative arrangement of the vocal cords, the
windpipe and the food pipe in humans create a
potential for choking. In non-human primates, the
vocal apparatus is arranged in such a way that
they can’t choke.
The deer has a vocal apparatus similar to
How deep does this dominance of the auditory
modality go?
Are we pre-wired to use this format of
DO all humans possess some predisposition to
use the manual-visual modality?
Even if humans had the capacity to use this
modality, by the time they’re adults, they’d be
used to using the auditory modality.

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Best strategy is to look at young children, ones
that are in the one-word stage.
Namy & Waxman used young children from the
ages of 18 and 24 month old. To what degree did
the children accept unfamiliar word versus an
arbitrary gesture referring to something?
Did the child attach this sound pattern to this
object? How likely are they pick the right object?
How did it work in the gesture condition?
The gesture is embedded in the utterance.
Instead of saying ‘dax’, he just motions it out,
puts his palm down etc.
**In the case of the 18-month year olds, they
were happy to have the spoken word or the
**In the case of the 24-month year olds, they
didn’t like using the gesture or mapping the
gestures to the object. They weren’t inclined.
They needed an incentive to do so.
Does the gesture work in the same way as the
spoken word? Can the effect be obtained with
other kinds of perceptual patterns?
Do all humans possess the predisposition to use
the manual-visual modality?
1. Greater sensitivity in early childhood
2. Gesture accompanying speech
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