The role of gesture at first exposure to a sign language by second language learners

Date/Time: Tue 12 Sep / 11:00 am - 12:00 pm

Location: Monash University, Room E561, (Menzies Building) 20 Chancellors Walk, Clayton Campus

Languages, Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics


The role of gesture at first exposure to a sign language by second language learners

Learners of a second language (L2) commonly fall back on their first language (L1) as
scaffolding of the target linguistic system. An intriguing question that has not yet been
thoroughly explored is whether learners of a sign language have at their disposal any system that serves as foundation to develop an L2 expressed in a different modality from their L1 (aural-oral vs manual-visual). Speech and sign have fundamental modality differences that do not allow cross-linguistic influence. However, gesture and sign share the property of iconicity, the direct relationship between a linguistic form and its referent. In this talk I will present a number of studies that show that the similarities in which sign and gesture iconically represent a referent influence in positive and negative ways the initial stages of sign L2 learning. Data from a gesture generation task revealed that hearing adults have a highly systematic gestural system that overlaps to different degrees in form and meaning with conventionalised signs. Importantly, this overlap has a strong impact in sign comprehension and production and can have important consequences in the acquisition of the linguistic conventions of the target manual language.

Gerardo Ortega obtained his PhD at the Deafness Cognition and Language Research Centre (DCAL) at University College London. For the last five years he has been a postdoctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, in the Netherlands. Gerardo’s research has explored how iconicity has an impact on the acquisition of a manual phonological system by hearing adults. He has also investigated how different types of iconicity influence the acquisition of a sign language by deaf children. Thanks to a competitive three-year grant he has been able to explore how speakers’ gestures influence perception and production of a sign language at first exposure. His research has looked at Mexican Sign Language (LSM), British Sign Language (BSL), Turkish Sign Language (TID), and Sign Language of the Netherlands (NGT) under a range of experimental paradigms. Some of his additional research interests are sign processing, bimodal bilingualism, and sign language emergence.

Tuesday  12 Sep

11:00am – 12:00pm

Monash University
Room E561,
(Menzies Building) 20 Chancellors Walk,
Clayton Campus

For further information, please contact  Professor Kate Burridge on 99058099

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