ERIC Number: EJ778732
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2002-Nov
Reference Count: 0
Is There a Natural Order for Expressing Semantic Relations?
Gershkoff-Stowe, Lisa; Goldin-Medow, Susan
Cognitive Psychology, v45 n3 p375-412 Nov 2002
All languages rely to some extent on word order to signal relational information. Why? We address this question by exploring communicative and cognitive factors that could lead to a reliance on word order. In Study 1, adults were asked to describe scenes to another using their hands and not their mouths. The question was whether this home-made "language" would contain gesture sentences with consistent order. In addition, we asked whether reliance on order would be influenced by three communicative factors (whether the communication partner is permitted to give feedback; whether the information to be communicated is present in the context that recipient and gesturer share; whether the gesturer assumes the role of gesture receiver as well as gesture producer). We found that, not only was consistent ordering of semantic elements robust across the range of communication situations, but the same non-English order appeared in all contexts. Study 2 explored whether this non-English order is found only when a person attempts to share information with another. Adults were asked to reconstruct scenes in a non-communicative context using pictures drawn on transparencies. The adults picked up the pictures for their reconstructions in a consistent order, and that order was the same non-English order found in Study 1. Finding consistent ordering patterns in a non-communicative context suggests that word order is not driven solely by the demands of communicating information to another, but may reflect a more general property of human thought.
Descriptors: Sentence Structure, Nonverbal Communication, Semantics, Word Order, Semiotics, Cognitive Processes, Adults, Feedback (Response), Context Effect, Pictorial Stimuli, Language Patterns, Language Processing
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
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