Linguistic Modality Affects the Creation of Structure and Iconicity in Signals

Abstract

Different linguistic modalities (speech or sign) offer different levels at which signals can iconically represent the world. One hypothesis argues that this iconicity has an effect on how linguistic structure emerges. However, exactly how and why these effects might come about is in need of empirical investigation. In this contribution, we present a signal creation experiment in which both the signalling space and the meaning space are manipulated so that different levels and types of iconicity are available between the signals and meanings. Signals are produced using an infrared sensor that detects the hand position of participants to generate auditory feedback. We find evidence that iconicity may be maladaptive for the discrimination of created signals. Further, we implemented Hidden Markov Models to characterise the structure within signals, which was also used to inform a metric for iconicity.


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