Investigating Natural Word Order via Pantomime: Research Report

Marek Placiński, Monika Boruta-Żywiczyńska



Abstract. Inquiry into language evolution has recently focused on the question of the natural word order, i.e. a word order which may be primary in a cognitive and phylogenetic sense (Dryer, 2005; Pagel, 2009; Gell-Mann and Ruhlen, 2011). Some substantial insights into this topic originate in gesture and sign studies. Research by Goldin-Meadow et al. (2008) has inspired scientists to use the silent gesture paradigm, which requires participants to narrate events using their hands. The results of the study revealed that participants tended to produce SOV word orderof a transitive event, regardless of the syntax of their native language. The findingwas corroborated to a degree in later studies; however, some of them shed more light on the issue (Gibson et al., 2013; Hall et al., 2013; Sandler et al., 2005). The aim of our study is to test whether the SOV order is dominant when participants communicate transitive events (verbs) with whole-body pantomime.


pantomime; natural word order; language evolution; linear grammar

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