Edited by Stefan Hartmann, Michael Pleyer, James Winters and Jordan Zlatev
[Interaction Studies 18:3] 2017
► pp. 465–488
Multimodal-first or pantomime-first?
Communicating events through pantomime with and without vocalization
A persistent controversy in language evolution research has been whether language emerged in the gestural-visual or in the vocal-auditory modality. A “dialectic” solution to this age-old debate has now been gaining ground: language was fully multimodal from the start and remains so to this day. In this paper, we show this solution to be too simplistic and outline a more specific theoretical proposal, which we designate as pantomime-first. To decide between the multimodal-first and pantomime-first alternatives, we review several lines of interdisciplinary evidence and complement it with a cognitive-semiotic experiment. In the study, the participants saw – and then matched to hand-drawn images – recordings of short transitive events enacted by 4 actors in two conditions: visual (only body movement) and multimodal (body movement accompanied by nonlinguistic vocalization). Significantly, the matching accuracy was greater in the visual than the multimodal condition, though a follow-up experiment revealed that the emotional profiles of the events enacted in the multimodal condition could be reliably detected from the sound alone. We see these results as supporting the proposed pantomime-first scenario.
- 2.A “multimodal” origin of language?
- 2.1Definitional issues: What is linguistic multimodality?
- 2.2Theoretical issues: What are the alternatives?
- 2.3Empirical issues: How do we decide?
- 3.Pantomiming events with and without vocalization: An experimental study
- 3.1Rationale and hypotheses
- 3.3Participants and procedure
Cited by 11 other publications
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