Using Non-Language to Understand Language
Communicative systems crucially depend on the fact that they are shared between those who send signals and those who receive them. How did this shared-ness come about? Specifically, are producers and comprehenders subject to the same sets of heuristics when creating a communication system de novo? Here, I explore these questions by asking naïve participants (hearing non-signers) to describe or simple events in pantomime, to comprehend pantomimed descriptions, or both. By initially segregating production from comprehension, we can establish a clearer foundation for understanding the (tacit or explicit) negotiations that take place during dynamic communicative interaction. I will summarize the results of several experiments on pantomime production, comprehension, and dynamic interaction, and will suggest that these findings can help us better understand the nonlinguistic origins from which grammar develops.