Mutsumi Imai: The role of iconicity in language acquisition

Institute of East Asian Studies cordially invites you to the guest talk by Mutsumi Imai: “The role of iconicity in language acquisition”.

When: Tuesday, April 30, 2.00-3.45 pm

Where: room 104, Faculty of Arts’ main building


The role of iconicity in language acquisition

Mutsumi Imai

Keio University, Japan

Language is a system of abstract symbols. To address the symbol grounding problem (Harnad,1998), which is directly linked to key problems in language acquisition and evolution, we need to consider not only how children map their physical and sensory experiences to the first set of symbols but also how they de-ground from “here and there” and climb the ladder into an inter-connected system of abstract concepts, which are largely language-specific. In this talk, I propose the sound symbolism bootstrapping hypothesis (Imai & Kita, 2014 ) and discuss evidence for it. I first explore how pre-verbal infants break into the world of symbols with the help of sound symbolism, presenting results of a series of experiments using EEG and NIRS. I then discuss how sound symbolism can develop into language-specific systems, each of which has its own way in mapping meanings to sounds, based on the results of an experiment that elicited production of sound symbolic words in Japanese and English speakers. I finally discuss how children de-ground from direct iconicity and immerse into conventional language, much of which does not contain apparently sensible sound symbolism .
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