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Gesture facilitates the syntactic analysis of speech

Holle, Henning; Obermeier, Christian; Schmidt-Kassow, Maren; Friederici, Angela D.; Ward, Jamie; Gunter, Thomas C.

Authors

Dr Henning Holle H.Holle@hull.ac.uk
Reader in Psychology / Leader of Cognitive and Clinical Neuroscience group ( www.hull.ac.uk/neuroscience )

Christian Obermeier

Maren Schmidt-Kassow

Angela D. Friederici

Jamie Ward

Thomas C. Gunter

Abstract

Recent research suggests that the brain routinely binds together information from gesture and speech. However, most of this research focused on the integration of representational gestures with the semantic content of speech. Much less is known about how other aspects of gesture, such as emphasis, influence the interpretation of the syntactic relations in a spoken message. Here, we investigated whether beat gestures alter which syntactic structure is assigned to ambiguous spoken German sentences. The P600 component of the Event Related Brain Potential indicated that the more complex syntactic structure is easier to process when the speaker emphasizes the subject of a sentence with a beat. Thus, a simple flick of the hand can change our interpretation of who has been doing what to whom in a spoken sentence. We conclude that gestures and speech are an integrated system. Unlike previous studies, which have shown that the brain effortlessly integrates semantic information from gesture and speech, our study is the first to demonstrate that this integration also occurs for syntactic information. Moreover, the effect appears to be gesture-specific and was not found for other stimuli that draw attention to certain parts of speech, including prosodic emphasis, or a moving visual stimulus with the same trajectory as the gesture. This suggests that only visual emphasis produced with a communicative intention in mind (that is, beat gestures) influences language comprehension, but not a simple visual movement lacking such an intention.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Oct 9, 2012
Journal Frontiers in psychology
Electronic ISSN 1664-1078
Publisher Frontiers Media
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 3
Issue MAR
Article Number ARTN 74
Pages 1-12
Institution Citation Holle, H., Obermeier, C., Schmidt-Kassow, M., Friederici, A. D., Ward, J., & Gunter, T. C. (2012). Gesture facilitates the syntactic analysis of speech. Frontiers in Psychology, 3(MAR), 1-12. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00074
DOI https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00074
Keywords Language; Syntax; Audiovisual; P600; Ambiguity
Publisher URL http://journal.frontiersin.org/Journal/10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00074/abstract
Copyright Statement © 2012 Holle, Obermeier, Schmidt-Kassow, Friederici, Ward and Gunter. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial License, which permits non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited. This document is protected by copyright and was first published by Frontiers. All rights reserved. it is reproduced with permission.
Additional Information Copy of article first published in Frontiers in psychology, v.3

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Copyright Statement
© 2012 Holle, Obermeier, Schmidt-Kassow, Friederici, Ward and Gunter. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial License, which permits non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited. This document is protected by copyright and was first published by Frontiers. All rights reserved. it is reproduced with permission.



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