Experimental Linguistics Talks


15 May 2023
11:00 - 12:00
Trans 10, 0.19

Marieke Schouwstra: Language and iconicity in the lab: experience, learning, and interaction

Marieke Schouwstra: Language and iconicity in the lab: experience, learning, and interaction

Iconicity can aid the learning of a new language, but the relationship between language and iconicity is complex and has many layers. In this talk I will discuss experimental work that aims to help us better understand this complex interconnectedness. First, I will point out that apart from an influence of iconicity on learning, there is a relevant force in the opposite direction: experience with iconic vs non-iconic language can influence how the iconicity of linguistic signs is perceived. I will present experimental results of a visual learning experiment that supports this view: participants were trained on an artificial language that consisted of point patterns presented together with labels. Participants were more likely to interpret novel point patterns as iconic after being trained on a highly iconic point pattern language than when they were trained on a less iconic language (Sato, Schouwstra, Kirby, 2020).

Subsequently, I will focus on different specific iconic strategies in the gestural domain, and report ongoing experimental work that investigates the influence of shared (cultural) knowledge on the usage of iconic strategies in interaction (Mudd & Schouwstra, in prep).

Important take home messages from this work: (1) iconicity is, at least partly, a subjective phenomenon: whether or not iconic mappings are perceived or recognised can differ from individual to individual, and can be influenced by previous perceptual experience. (2) despite the subjective nature, we can use experimental techniques to investigate statistical patterns in the role of iconicity in language and its use, change, and evolution.

Teams link:


Meeting ID: 330 952 244 607 

 Passcode: YMKbzq