Brighton researcher Pamela Perniss speaks on the experience of language
27 Feb 2015
Brighton's Dr Pamela Perniss, an expert on sign language and co-speech gesture research, is an invited keynote speaker at the 2015 10th International Symposium on Iconicity in Language and Literature.
Her invitation comes at a time of growing strength in linguistics at the University of Brighton, where a regular seminar programme is fostering research interests and the attention of new students and collaborators.
Pamela Perniss' research interests deal with iconicity and resemblance, the debates as to relationships between the form and the meaning of a communicative sign. Her specific expertise covers theories of sign language and co-speech gesture communication, a feature of her former work as Marie Curie Fellow and a Research Associate at the Deafness, Cognition, and Language (DCAL) Research Centre, University College London (UCL).
Her keynote speech is titled The bridge of iconicity: From a world of experience to the experience of language and brings nuance to the characterisation of language as a system of arbitrary signs. Dr Pamela Perniss proposes an alternative framework whereby iconicity sits alongside arbitrariness as a fundamental feature of language and serves to link human language to human experience of the world. For example the gestures that accompany speech are often iconic of some aspects of the content of the speech, as Pamela discusses in 'The bridge of iconicity', her published article on which her keynote speech is based.
Pamela describes the thrill of an invite as a recognised specialist, "As someone who has been working on iconicity (as resemblance between form and meaning) in signed languages for many years, as well as having published more recently on the importance of iconicity within a theoretical framework of language, I was thrilled to be invited to the conference as a keynote speaker."
The bridge of iconicity: From a world of experience to the experience of language
Iconicity, a resemblance between properties of form and meaning, has traditionally been considered to be a marginal, irrelevant phenomenon for our understanding of language. Rather, the arbitrary and symbolic nature of language has long been taken as a design feature of the human linguistic system. In this talk, I propose an alternative framework in which iconicity in face-to-face communication (both spoken and signed) is a powerful vehicle for bridging between language and human experience, and, as such, iconicity provides a key to understanding language evolution, learning, and processing. In language evolution, iconicity might have played a key role in establishing displacement, the core ability of language to refer beyond the here-and-now. In language learning, iconicity may play a critical role in supporting referential mapping, learning to map linguistic labels to objects and events in the world. Finally, by linking linguistic form to sensori-motor systems, iconicity may provide a mechanism accounting for the embodiment of language processing.
The Tenth International Symposium on Iconicity in Language and Literature, is held 26-28 March 2015 at University of Tübingen, Germany. Organized by the Iconicity Research Project since 1997, this conference focuses on iconicity - understood as form miming meaning and form, and meaning miming form and meaning - in language and in literature.