Wired’s Brandon Keim covers a new study by Susan Goldin-Meadow, which shows a conflict between linguistic and gestural communication strategies:
"This may reflect the real thought that comes before language," said study co-author Susan Goldin-Meadow, a University of Chicago psychologist. "It seems pretty natural."
Goldin-Meadow's team asked forty people -- ten speakers apiece of English, Mandarin Chinese and Spanish, each of which follows the SVO order, and ten speakers of Turkish, which follows an SOV order -- to describe a series of simple actions, such as a girl turning a knob, with gestures.
Regardless of their native language, the subjects almost universally preceded object with verb: girl knob turns. "We expected that the language they spoke would influence the language of their gestures, but it didn't," said Goldin-Meadow.
They propose the “meaning” of the study is that the gestural strategy here reflects the actual structure of symbolic communication in the brain. In that view, the linguistic version is a language-specific translation of the brain’s version.