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Sign and Speech Share Partially Overlapping Conceptual Representations

Evans, S; Price, CJ; Diedrichsen, J; Gutierrez-Sigut, E; MacSweeney, M; (2019) Sign and Speech Share Partially Overlapping Conceptual Representations. Current Biology 10.1016/j.cub.2019.08.075. (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

Conceptual knowledge is fundamental to human cognition. Yet, the extent to which it is influenced by language is unclear. Studies of semantic processing show that similar neural patterns are evoked by the same concepts presented in different modalities (e.g., spoken words and pictures or text). This suggests that conceptual representations are “modality independent.” However, an alternative possibility is that the similarity reflects retrieval of common spoken language representations. Indeed, in hearing spoken language users, text and spoken language are co-dependent, and pictures are encoded via visual and verbal routes. A parallel approach investigating semantic cognition shows that bilinguals activate similar patterns for the same words in their different languages. This suggests that conceptual representations are “language independent.” However, this has only been tested in spoken language bilinguals. If different languages evoke different conceptual representations, this should be most apparent comparing languages that differ greatly in structure. Hearing people with signing deaf parents are bilingual in sign and speech: languages conveyed in different modalities. Here, we test the influence of modality and bilingualism on conceptual representation by comparing semantic representations elicited by spoken British English and British Sign Language in hearing early, sign-speech bilinguals. We show that representations of semantic categories are shared for sign and speech, but not for individual spoken words and signs. This provides evidence for partially shared representations for sign and speech and shows that language acts as a subtle filter through which we understand and interact with the world.

Type: Article
Title: Sign and Speech Share Partially Overlapping Conceptual Representations
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2019.08.075
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2019.08.075
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: speech, sign language, BSL, fMRI, semantics, bilingualism, conceptual representations, brain imaging
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology > Imaging Neuroscience
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10084587
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