The Role of Simultaneity and Iconicity for Efficient Communication: The case of Italian Sign Language (LIS)

Anita Slonimska

Nonetheless the variability of world’s languages is undeniable they all serve the same function - to communicate. This factor inevitably influences the general tendency for languages to be optimized for communicative efficiency, i.e. “to be structured so as to facilitate easy, rapid, and robust communication” (Gibson, et al, 2019, p.389). Research on communicative efficiency in sign languages, which has been limited to a handful of descriptive studies so far, provides an opportunity to gain new insights not only on general strategies for communicative efficiency shared with spoken languages. It also allows us to investigate the role of visual modality specific resources such as use of multiple articulators (both hands, torso, head, face expression, & eye gaze) and iconicity to create informatively rich constructions consisting of multiple distinct meaning elements encoded simultaneously. Such form of simultaneity, unique to sign languages, can be potentially used to achieve communicative efficiency.

In this project, we investigate whether simultaneity is employed to achieve communicative efficiency in sign languages (in Italian Sign Language in specific) and what are the linguistic strategies used to create simultaneous constructions.

This project aims to contribute not only novel knowledge about how simultaneity is used in Italian Sign Language but on a more global scale it aims to widen our understanding about the role and emergence of modality specific resources such as simultaneity in fulfilling one of the core functions of language, i.e., efficient communication.

This project was funded by the DCOMM Grant, the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions Grant Agreement No. 676063.