New paper in Cognitive Science: Simultaneity as an Emergent Property of Efficient Communication in Language: A Comparison of Silent Gesture and Sign Language by Anita Slonimska, Aslı Özyürek, & Olga Capirci

In sign languages, due to the affordances of visual modality to use multiple articulators and iconicity, meaning units can be organized not only linearly but also simultaneously. In the present study, authors explored whether simultaneity constitutes an emergent linguistic property evolved for greater communicative efficiency.

Recent research has shown that LIS (Italian Sign Language) signers use simultaneous constructions to achieve communicative efficiency when they are required to encode informationally rich events. In the present study, authors asked whether hearing participants using only their gestures to communicate (i.e., silent gesture) could represent multiple semantic information units of the event simultaneously to the same extent as signers. They compared descriptions of events that varied in their information density produced by 23 Italian speakers using silent gesture and 23 deaf signers of LIS. The findings showed that gesturers used simultaneity less frequently and qualitatively differently than signers. These findings suggest that not only linear but also simultaneous expressions of meaning units constitute an emergent property of sign languages.

Curious to learn more? You can find the paper (open access) here.