270 – Human Communications
Icon, index and symbol are all signs.
Sign is used in different ways.
2.Manual-visual channel (communicating using
All cultures use spoken language.
What are the situations that make the vocal auditory
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
2.Sometimes you could spend the entire day in 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
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. 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 *** Video of Sign Language
Sign language has a fully-fledged grammar of its own.
Charles De Leppe opened the institute of the deaf. He
said what could be spoken could be communicated
through signs as well.
William Stotley went to this university and taught
Chaucer to the deaf.
Iconic: Charles made an important contribution to the
study of signs. The word sign referred to what
someone can use to represent something. There was
a large group of signs which looked like what they
were used to represent. Many of the signs have a
The more signs can free itself from the demands of
resemblance, the more you can express through
There must be a mental structure common in all
We enter the world mysteriously equipped to acquire
any language. We find that the difference between
languages is quite trivial as compared to the universal
grammar they all share.
1. Sign language was initially not considered to be a
2. Recognized as a language in the mid 20 century. Myths
2.Pantomime: you’re acting out imagistically, then
it follow that sign language should be similar
regardless of where you are.
3.Manual version of the spoken language: it is like
taking the spoken language and coming up with
an analog. It doesn’t make any sense because
there are a lot of spoken languages in the world.
If it is true then it should be the same as British
sign language. But British sign language doesn’t
look like (ASL).
If you look at ASL, it evolved from France. French
sign language is completely different from
Main design features and sign language:
Semanticity: Potential of some perceptible signal
to stand for something else.
Arbitrariness: there is no necessary relationship
between signs in sign language and a particular
thing. This doesn’t mean there aren’t signs that
are iconic. There are iconic symbols probably
more of the vocabulary is iconic as compared to
spoken language but it is still by far a minority.
Different sign languages are mutually
It is the very fact that signs often don’t resemble
what they stand for that makes them unintelligible.
Signs that did have iconic origins tend to reshape
over time. Signs that did start as imagistically
denoting something, they tend to evolve in a way
where their iconic origins are less and less
Example: In ASL, signs that have to do with being
a male, the ‘temple’ would be related. Signs that
have to do with being a female, ‘the jaw’ would
In the 1800’s, men wore top hats. Women wore
hats with strings. Hence, the concept of being
male and female is articulated with the ‘temple’
and the ‘jaw’.
**Many signs do not have an ic