New paper (Open Access) in Language and Cognition: Using depiction for efficient communication in LIS (Italian Sign Language) by Anita Slonimska, Alsi Ozyurek, & Olga Capirci

In this recently published paper, Anita Slonimska, Alsi Ozyurek, & Olga Capirci were interested in exploring whether highly iconic strategy (constructed action, CA) used for depicting referent/s and their actions with signers own body is used for referential purposes in contexts where efficient information is required, i.e., when information required to be communicated systematically increases. Recent studies exploring the use of CA in narrative settings have argued that, in sign languages, depicting strategy like CA is used for referential purposes to encode the core elements of the narrative. However, in narratives not only referential but also evaluative function is employed making it practically impossible to tease apart whether CA is used for referential and/or evaluative function. In the present study, we designed a controlled experiment in which we systematically manipulated the informative density (i.e., number of semantic information units) of the events required to be communicated in order to be able to focus on primarily referential function of CA. Twenty-three deaf signers of LIS described unconnected images, which varied in the amount of information represented, to another player in a director–matcher game. Results revealed that participants used CA to communicate core information about the images and also increased the use of CA as images became informatively denser. The results corroborated previous findings supporting the claim that CA can be used for referential function. This time, however, we extend these findings also to a controlled experiment where only referential function is required. Furthermore we showed that not only it is used for referential function but also as a strategy to achieve communicative efficiency when faced with increased informative demands. We concluded that the rich potential of the iconicity and depictive properties of CA can be employed for encoding referential information and to achieve communicative efficiency in LIS.

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