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Interaction's role in emerging communication systems and their conventionalization: Repair as a means for the fixation of form-meaning matches.

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Micklos, A. (2015). Interaction's role in emerging communication systems and their conventionalization: Repair as a means for the fixation of form-meaning matches. Talk presented at the Center for Research in Language. University of California, San Diego. 2015-01-13.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-002B-7B61-2
Abstract
The study I will present demonstrates how interaction – specifically negotiation and repair – can facilitate the emergence, evolution, and conventionalization of a silent gesture communication system (Goldin-Meadow et al, 2008; Schouwstra, 2012). In a modified iterated learning paradigm (Kirby, Cornish, & Smith, 2008), partners communicated noun-verb meanings using only silent gesture. The need to disambiguate similar noun-verb pairs (e.g. “a hammer” and “hammering”) drove these "new" language users to develop a morphology that allowed for quicker processing, easier transmission, and improved accuracy. The specific morphological system that emerged came about through a process of negotiation within the dyad. Negotiation involved reusing elements of prior gestures, even if temporally distant, to communicate a meaning. This is complementary to the same phenomenon that occurs in speech produced over multiple turns (Goodwin, 2013). The face-to-face, contingent interaction of the experiment allows participants to build from one another’s prior gestures as a means of developing systematicity over generations. Once a gesture has been performed, it is available for future use and manipulation. Transformative operations on prior gestures can emerge through repair as well. Immediate modification on a gesture can involve a reference to the gesture space or a particular element of the gesture. We see examples of this in other-initiated repair sequences (Jefferson, 1974) within the communication game. Over simulated generations, participants modified and systematized prior gestures to conform to emergent conventions in the silent gesture system. By applying a discourse analytic approach to the use of repair in an experimental methodology for language evolution, we are able to determine not only if interaction facilitates the emergence and learnability of a new communication system, but also how interaction affects such a system.