The project investigates the relationship between linguistic and non-linguistic cognitive processes in a comparison of spoken and signed language. Because signed and spoken languages differ with respect to the use of iconicity (i.e. visually motivated forms), comparison between language modalities can provide valuable insight into the nature of the interface between different cognitive processes. Specifically, the project focuses on the dimensions of size, shape, and location and seeks to explore effects of differences in the linguistic treatment of these domains in spoken and signed languages on visuospatial cognitive processes. In an interdisciplinary approach combining linguistic and psycholinguistic methodologies, we will assess signers and speakers linguistic coding of these spatial dimensions to investigate the effect of linguistic structure on conceptual representation. Crucially, this study will take into account differences in both modality and language typology (i.e. variation between languages) to examine their relative contribution.
The project will:
(1) document and classify the use of structural devices in signed and spoken language in the spatial domain,
(2) evaluate the effects on memory and attention of different linguistic treatment of spatial information in signed and spoken language in a cross-disciplinary approach, and
(3) gain insight into the relationship between linguistic and non-linguistic cognitive processing.
The results will enhance our understanding of the language and cognition interface and will have implications for both linguistics and psychology. The applicant has already gained substantial expertise in carrying out the linguistic analyses of signed and spoken languages necessary to the success of the project. The host institution will provide her with the additional complementary experimental knowledge that is also vital to the successful completion of the project and to her professional development as a cognitive scientist
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