Relationship between Spatial Language and Cognition in Bimodal Bilinguals

Francie Manhardt

In our everyday life, we use language to express spatial events. For instance, if we are looking for our car keys we might search for it behind the book, under the table or in front of the cup. How do we convert these spatial events to language? Spoken languages use arbitrary linguistic forms to express space, but sign languages, the natural languages of Deaf communities, use space iconically to talk about space.

The present study investigates whether using a signed and spoken language from birth changes the way we speak, sign and think about space. More concretely, we want to examine whether growing up with both a signed language (which allows iconic mappings of space) and a spoken language (which employs arbitrary forms to describe spatial relations) influences signer's spatial event cognition. To that end, we will be comparing the performance of adult CODAs (children of deaf adults) to hearing speakers and native signers. We will use eye-tracking in typologically distinct languages such as Dutch, Sign Language of the Netherlands, Turkish, and Turkish Sign Language.

This project is supported by a Vici Grant (2015-2020) for the project "Giving cognition a hand: Linking spatial cognition to linguistic expression in native and late learners of sign language and bimodal bilinguals", awarded to Prof. Aslı Özyürek.

Dutch Science Foundation (NWO) - VICI Grant (2015 - 2020)