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Breaking into language in a new modality: the role of input and of individual differences in recognising signs

Hofweber, Julia, Aumonier, Lizzy, Janke, Vikki, Gullberg, Marianne, Marshall, Chloe (2022) Breaking into language in a new modality: the role of input and of individual differences in recognising signs. Frontiers in Psychology, 13 . Article Number 895880. ISSN 1664-1078. E-ISSN 1664-1078. (doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2022.895880) (KAR id:94825)


A key challenge when learning language in naturalistic circumstances is to extract linguistic information from a continuous stream of speech. This study investigates the predictors of such implicit learning amongst adults exposed to a new language in a new modality (a sign language). Sign-naïve participants (N=93; British-English speakers) were shown a 4-minute weather forecast in Swedish Sign Language. Subsequently, we tested their ability to recognise 22 target sign forms that had been viewed in the forecast, amongst 44 distractor signs that had not been viewed. The target items differed in their occurrence frequency in the forecast, and in their degree of iconicity. The results revealed that both frequency and iconicity facilitated recognition of target signs cumulatively. The adult mechanism for language learning thus operates similarly on sign and spoken languages as regards frequency, but also exploits modality-salient properties, e.g., iconicity for sign languages. Individual differences in cognitive skills and language-learning background did not predict recognition. The properties of the input thus influenced adults’ language learning abilities at first exposure more than individual differences.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.3389/fpsyg.2022.895880
Uncontrolled keywords: second language acquisition; iconicity; sign language; implicit learning; first exposure; modality
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of Culture and Languages
Depositing User: Vikki Janke
Date Deposited: 29 Apr 2022 20:16 UTC
Last Modified: 15 Aug 2022 14:19 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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