Iconicity Workshop

Location: ZAS, Schützenstraße 18, 10117 Berlin, Room 403
Date: May 14-15, 2018 
Organizers: Susanne Fuchs, Cornelia Ebert, Aleksandra Ćwiek and Manfred Krifka

Invited Speakers:

Mark Dingemanse
Ellen Fricke
Stefan Kopp
Markus Steinbach
Bodo Winter


Monday, May 14th
10:00-10:30        Welcome
10:30-11:30        Talk 1
11:30-11:50        Coffee break
11:50-12:50        Talk 2
12:50-14:30        Lunch break
14:30-15:30        Talk 3
15:30-16:15        Lab tour
16:15-17:15        Talk 4
19:00                   Dinner at Cana Restaurant und Catering
                             Neue Roßstraße 11, 10179 Berlin

Tuesday, May 15th
Talk 5
Coffee break
Round table “Show & Tell”
Lunch break
Talk 6
Talk 7

Download programme & abstracts


Markus Steinbach
Constructing Meaning at the Interface between Sign and Gesture

Sign language and gesture share the same visual-gestural modality. Therefore, signers – like speakers – cannot only use co-speech gestures accompanying utterances but also – unlike speakers – systematically integrate manual and non-manual gestures in various ways into utterances. A particularly interesting example for the systematic interaction of gesture and sign language is constructed action (i.e. action role shift), which has been the focus of much debate in recent literature on meaning and modality. In this presentation, I'll discuss various examples of gestural meaning components that are integrated into the proposition expressed by the utterance and show how recent accounts of action role shift (Cormier et al. 2015, Davidson 2015, Maier 2015, Herrmann/Pendzich 2018, Schlenker to appear-a,b) can explain the modality-specific interaction of gesture and sign.

Bodo Winter
Where is iconicity and why isn’t there more of it?

More and more studies show that spoken and signed languages harbor a considerable degree of iconicity, form-meaning mappings that are motivated by resemblance, such as the word “bang”, which sounds somewhat like an actual bang. In this talk, I will consider iconicity as a graded quantity, with certain words being more or less iconic. Rather than asking the question, “Are languages iconic or arbitrary?”, I will be asking, “Where is iconicity?” Using English iconicity scores from a rating study, I will show that iconicity is ramped up in children’s speech and the child-directed speech of adults. I will then show that iconicity is also heightened in perceptual language, in particular for sound words (“squealing”, “beeping”, “rustling”) and touch words (“rough”, “smooth”, “prickly”). These analyses of the distribution of iconicity within language also help us understand why languages are characterized by a lot of arbitrariness. In particular, I will argue that it is precisely the connection between iconicity and perceptual semantics which restricts its domain of use. To this end, I will report new quantitative evidence which shows that iconicity is inimical to abstraction in language.