Gesture and Sign Language Lab (GSL)
PI: Asli Ozyurek


In the Gesture and Sign Language Lab (GSL) we investigate the relations between the body, language, cognition and communication. The underlying question is to what extent our bodily actions interact with language structures, its processing and use in communication.

To answer this question my research program proceeds in 4 different strands:

1) Co-speech gestures: What do gestures we use tell us about language processing and comprehension during speaking? To answer this question we conduct research on

  • Cross-linguistic comparison of gesture use (with dr. Sotaro Kita)
  • The development of the relations between gesture and language in children (with dr. Shanley Allen, dr. Sotaro Kita, Reyhan Furman)
  • Neurocognition of gesture and speech comprehension (with dr. Roel Willems, prof. Peter Hagoort)



2) Action, intention, gesture: How do we distinguish practical actions from communicative actions (i.e., gesture)? To what extent communicative intentions (e.g., as indexed by mutual eye gaze) play a role in action and gesture comprehension and production? (with dr. Spencer Kelly, dr. Judith Holler, Idil Kokal, prof. P. Hagoort, dr. Ivan Toni, Miriam De Boer)



3) Sign Language: What role does the visual-spatial modality play in structuring language? To what extent the structures and patterns of language use we see in spoken languages are universal and to what extent are they specific to using either a spoken or visual language? To do so we investigate

  • Expressions and use of space in different sign languages (e.g., Turkish Sign Language and German Sign Languages) (with dr. Pamela Perniss, Hasan Hiseyin Yilmaz, dr. Inge Zwitserlood)
  • Comparison of acquisition of spatial language in deaf children learning a sign language and hearing children learning a spoken language (with Beyza Sumer)



4) Emerging language and communication systems: What do emerging language systems (i.e., emerging sign languages, homesign systems) tell us about our ability to communicate and the fundamental nature of language? What role does visual modality play in emergence of a new language/communication system? (with prof. Susan Goldin Meadow, dr. Ann Senghas)