The iconic motivation for the morphophonological distinction between noun–verb pairs in American Sign Language does not reflect common human construals of objects and actions

Autor/a: PYERS, Jennie E.; EMMOREY, Karen
Año: 2022
Editorial: Cambridge University Press
Tipo de código: Copyright
Soporte: Digital


Lingüística » Lingüística de otras Lenguas de Signos


Across sign languages, nouns can be derived from verbs through morphophonological changes in movement by (1) movement reduplication and size reduction or (2) size reduction alone. We asked whether these cross-linguistic similarities arise from cognitive biases in how humans construe objects and actions. We tested nonsigners’ sensitivity to differences in noun–verb pairs in American Sign Language (ASL) by asking MTurk workers to match images of actions and objects to videos of ASL noun–verb pairs. Experiment 1a’s match-to-sample paradigm revealed that nonsigners interpreted all signs, regardless of lexical class, as actions. The remaining experiments used a forced-matching procedure to avoid this bias. Counter our predictions, nonsigners associated reduplicated movement with actions not objects (inversing the sign language pattern) and exhibited a minimal bias to associate large movements with actions (as found in sign languages). Whether signs had pantomimic iconicity did not alter nonsigners’ judgments. We speculate that the morphophonological distinctions in noun–verb pairs observed in sign languages did not emerge as a result of cognitive biases, but rather as a result of the linguistic pressures of a growing lexicon and the use of space for verbal morphology. Such pressures may override an initial bias to map reduplicated movement to actions, but nevertheless reflect new iconic mappings shaped by linguistic and cognitive experiences.

En Language and Cognition: an interdisciplinary journal of Language and Cognitive Scicene