The Gesture-to-Sign Trajectory: Phonological Parameters in production and Real-Time Comprehension

Principal Investigators:
Prof. Dr. Pamela Perniss, University of Cologne
Prof. Dr. Petra Schumacher, University of Cologne

PhD Candidate:
Door Spruijt, University of Cologne

Project description:
The visual modality is well-known for its high potential for iconic representation, in particular, of information related to size and shape, manual action, location and motion. This affordance is exploited in both sign language and gesture and accounts to a significant degree for the similarity of expression across these domains in these modes of communicative expression. In the present project, we investigate this similarity with respect to the transition from gesture to sign in L2M2 (second language, second modality) sign language acquisition. The similarities between sign and gesture have important implications for L2M2 acquisition of a sign language, as learners’ gestural repertoire can support but also interfere with learning the phonologically specified forms in the established lexicon of sign language. In the proposed project, we investigate learners’ trajectories of transition from gesture to sign as well as their perception by proficient/native signers. To this end, we employ behavioral measures, a sign repetition task in a longitudinal study and electrophysiological measures. The project is integral to the Priority Program ViCom because it contributes to the subject by investigating the gesture-to-sign trajectory from a psycho- and neurolinguistic perspective, thereby offering a cognitively grounded approach to visual communication.