Katja Abramova
PhD candidate at Radboud University, Nijmegen
Gesture and the iterated learning paradigm

I will present a study that was recently carried out by Simon Kirby, Kenny Smith, and myself at the University of Edinburgh that applies the iterated learning paradigm to the gestural modality. We attempted to replicate a grammaticalization pattern that was described in the development of Nicaraguan Sign Language from different ‘home sign’ systems: the progressive segmentation and linearization of motion event expressions in newer generations of users of the emerging sign language (Senghas, Kita and Ozyurek, 2004). The original interpretation of this pattern emphasized the role of the critical period in driving the observed change. We were interested in testing whether a similar result could be obtained in a group of adult hearing participants if they were placed in a transmission chain. If successful, it would instead point to the role of culture in this phenomenon and at the same time help generalize the iterated learning paradigm to a new modality. In addition to outlining the motivation for the study, I will describe the experimental set-up and present our preliminary results.