Semantic structure in improvised communication


Recent studies have shown that people, when asked to communicate about simple events in an improvised manner, i.e., using only gesture and no speech, consistently use a sequencing that corresponds with SOV order. We present experimental data showing that SOV is not the only order that emerges, and that 'intensional events' give rise to a different ordering: SVO. We conclude that the semantic properties of the events that are communicated about play a role in the sequencing of utterances in emerging language systems. Further, we hypothesise that in simple language systems the sequencing of elements has a communicative function. We present a second study, which shows that different ordering of the constituents in improvised communication sequences results in different interpretations.

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