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Colloquia Green

– The potential for iconicity in vocalization, and the origins of language –

Arguments for a gestural origin of language often assume that gestures afford vastly more potential for iconicity than vocalizations. Therefore, it is reasoned, gestures are necessary to bootstrap the formation of spoken symbols. To the contrary, in this talk, I present results from several “vocal” charades experiments that highlight the considerable potential for iconicity in vocalizations. The findings show that 1) people are able to create iconic vocalizations to represent a diverse array of meanings, and that 2) naïve listeners are able to understand these vocalizations. The findings also suggest that 3) people are able to use iconic vocalizations to ground the formation of more word-like symbols. In conclusion, I argue for the more balanced hypothesis that language originated from iconic signals in both gesture and vocalization alike.

16 MAR 2017 | MPI Room 163 | 15.45 – 17.00

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