New paper (Open Access) in Cognitive Science: A Systematic Investigation of Gesture Kinematics in Evolving Manual Languages in the Lab by Wim Pouw, Mark Dingemanse, Yasamin Motamedi, & Aslı Özyürek

Nonetheless silent gestures consist of complex multi-articulatory movements they are primarily studied through categorical coding of the referential gesture content. The relation of categorical linguistic content with continuous kinematics is therefore poorly understood. In the recently published paper, Wim Pouw, Mark Dingemanse, Yasamin Motamedi, & Aslı Özyürek reanalyzed the video data from a gestural evolution experiment (Motamedi, Schouwstra, Smith, Culbertson, & Kirby, 2019), which showed increases in the systematicity of gesture content over time. Authors applied computer vision techniques to quantify the kinematics of the original data. The results on kinematic analyses demonstrated that gestures become more efficient and less complex in their kinematics over generations of learners. Authors further detected the systematicity of gesture form on the level of the gesture kinematic interrelations, which directly scale with the systematicity obtained on semantic coding of the gestures. Thus, from continuous kinematics alone, authors could tap into linguistic aspects that were previously only approachable through categorical coding of meaning. Finally, going beyond issues of systematicity, authors showed how unique gesture kinematic dialects emerged over generations as isolated chains of participants gradually diverged over iterations from other chains. Authors conclude that gestures can come to embody the linguistic system at the level of interrelationships between communicative tokens, which should calibrate our theories about form and linguistic content.

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