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Signed Languages Talk – Occhino
February 17, 2020 @ 12:30 pm - 2:00 pm
Signed Languages as Visual Languages: Iconicity and Experience in Language Processing
Research Assistant Professor
National Technical Institute for the Deaf
Rochester Institute of Technology
In this talk, Dr. Occhino will describe two important factors at the center of understanding the ways in which
iconicity influences the structure and processing of signed languages. First, she will discuss the relationship
between individuals’ language experience and iconicity, showing how signers’ relationship with a signed
language influences their perception of iconicity within that language. Second, she will discuss the relationship
between form and meaning and the notion of “construal.” She will suggest that the manifestation of iconicity in
signs, or the grammar of signed languages, relies on signers’ own sensory-motor, perceptual, cultural, and
linguistic experiences. Therefore, the perception of iconicity of any given sign varies from one individual to the
next, both within a single language, and across signers of different signed languages. Finally, she will argue that
language experience and individual construal are important factors when quantifying, operationalizing, or
documenting iconic factors in signed languages. She will show how embodied approaches to language and
cognition can help explain these factors and reconcile iconicity findings within current linguistic frameworks. To
gain insight into the nature of iconicity in both signed and spoken languages, researchers must reevaluate
assumptions about the underlying nature of iconicity. Future studies on iconicity and embodiment may also
close the gap between signed and spoken language research, so that findings from each field can crosspollinate,
growing new ideas across research in different language modalities.
This talk is part of the Opening Doors Through Language: Access and Equity Faculty Cluster Search.