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Lecture 3

Lecture 3 - Sign Language

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Craig Chambers

PSY274: Intro to Human Communication Lecture 3: September 24, 2013 Test Format: - Multiple choice - Fill-in-the-blank - Short answer - Medium answer o Recalling specific authors/dates of studies not necessary (but useful for you as a mnemonic) o Only studies talked about in a reasonable level of detail are important o Technical terms are important o Correct descriptions/definitions of phenomena are important - For experiments we discussed in detail, you should be able to clearly and accurately describe: o The research question o The participants (ages = important for development studies) o The methodology o The measure of interest o The pattern of results o The interpretation/significance of the results - Reminder for test question requiring a written response o Don’t rewrite the question - Tests and exams in science courses o Terminology matters o Being able to provide examples Sign Language Recall: - Icon, index, symbol (from the first lecture Linguistic communication – Modalities - Vocal-auditory channel (spoken language) - Manual-visual channel (sign language) V-A channel is dominant - All known cultures use spoken language - Why might this be? o Omnidirectional – doesn’t require sight o Ability to multi-task (where we are doing other things that require our hands) o Might be more effective (especially in a dangerous situation) o Vocal auditory communication has an advantage at nigt time But how deeply rooted is the dominance of the vocal-auditory modality? - Do all humans posses some predisposition to use the manual-visual modality? - Given the fact that experience with a particular modality may bias sensitivities, best strategy is to look at young children o Research tends to focus on children because the idea is that they are not as rooted as adults are with auditory systems Children and Sensititiy to Manual Symbols - Namy and Waxman (1998) compared 18 and 24 month old hearing children PSY274: Intro to Human Communication Lecture 3: September 24, 2013 - Tested degree to which children assume unfamiliar spoken word vs. arbitrary gesture refers to something o Made up a number of words like, “dax” or “rif”, and made up novel gestures - They put these in a sentence frame that was accompanied by an unfamiliar object o Condition involving spoken words o With novel gestures, so instead of the word, you would show them the object o Example: show an unfamiliar plumbing object - You show the object as well as other objects, and ask the child to pick out the to (for example) the dax o If the child correctly picks the right object, the child formed an association between the sign and object - Results: o 18 month olds: assumed either spoken word or gesture could refer to something  They were open in terms of whether or not words and gestures had meaning o 24 month olds: assumed only spoken word could refer to something (required additional incentive to map gesture to object)  More accustomed to spoken language, and gestures are just something that occurs along the side o Children’s sensitivity to what things could be attached to meaning shifted from both spoken and gestures, to just spoken - Open questions; o Does the gesture “stand” for something in the child’s mind (more just referring to things in immediate environment)? o Can the effect be obtained with other kinds of perceptual patterns? (Example whistle sound, “clicky” noises?) Children and Sensitivity to Manual Symbols (Continued) - Home Sign systems: o Isolated deaf children (no exposure to established sign languages) o Single idiosyncratic manual communication system emerges in home  Specific to that particular home o Children’s home signing reflects systematicies that are often not found in the home sign patterns of the rest of the family (example: hearing family members)  More common in the developing world relative to developed world (Example: Nicoawgwa)  Highlights the extra sensitivity that is part of children’s capability - Gestures Accompanying Speech will be the topic for next week’s lecture Socialhistorical Context: - Not thought to be “real” languages th - Recognized as genuine languages in mid 20 century - Evolved on their own terms, not “designed” systems - Myths: o Universality  Sign languages are like spoken languages, if you are native speaker for ASL, you wont understand LSQ used in Quebec o Pantomime  Acting things out with your hands as best as you can (obviously not true) o Manual version of spoken language  Doesn’t have characteristic of spoken language (ie. sentence structures) PSY274: Intro to Human Communication Lecture 3: September 24, 2013 - *Note sign in “sign language” does not equal Peirce’s use of “sign Main design Features and Sign Language - Semanticity – YES o Signs stand for something, then the system has semanticity - Arbitrariness – YES o Different sign languages are mutually unintelligibility o Signs with iconic origins reshaped over time, iconic sense is lost  There iconic origins are lost (starts out as iconic, and over time it loses it to the point no one recognized the iconic of the sign)  Iconic origin of having male related signs is articulated near the temple, whereas women related signs were articulated near the chin (The bases of these signs have to do with head/hat wear in France in the 1800s) o Many signs without iconic bases  Just like in spoken language, most of the words we have don’t have iconic relationship with actual object  Majority of the signs are noniconic, more arbitrary o Even though sign languages have a greater potential to have iconic symbols (signs), the vast majority of the signs are not - Displacement – YES - Productivity – YES - Discreteness – YES - Duality of patterning – YES How Do We Show Evidence of Linguistic Units Smaller Than Words in Spoken Language? - Distributional analysis (example with speech sound) o The critical test: minimal pairs, “kit” vs. “bit”  /k/ and /b/ are distinct “phonemes” o Are there minimal pairs in sign language? - Minimal Pairs: examples in ASL “apple” and “onion” o Differ in location (near mouth near eye) - Minimal Pairs: examples in ASL “sit” and “name” o Differ in orientation (palms down vs. sideways) Parameters: - The dimensions of a sign within which variations can create a sign with a different meaning - Handshape – posture of han
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