Multimodality and Second Language Acquisition


The pilot working group on Multimodality and/in Second Language Acquisition generated conversations among colleagues and students from different language science disciplines on multimodality and/in second language acquisition. The 12 group members came from diverse departments: French and Italian, Germanic, Linguistics, Psychology, Slavic, Spanish and Portuguese, and Teaching and Learning. In our first meeting, we discussed a chapter, ‘Language and Multimodality’, by Scollon and Scollon from The Routledge Handbook of Multimodal Analysis (2010). We also discussed whom we would invite as our speaker. We had the good fortune to succeed in bringing our first choice to OSU. Professor Marianne Gullberg of Lund University gave a talk on her psycholinguistic research on gesture and second language development. In preparation for her talk, working group members read two of her articles. Professor Gulberg’s talk, ‘Why gestures are not (only) a compensatory device – evidence from language learners’, was attended by two dozen members (we had extended invitations beyond the working group). The working group will meet once during Maymester to discuss a reading and plan our next steps.

Wednesday, April 2nd, 4:00-6:00 pm at George Wells Knight House, 104 E. 15th Ave

"Why Gestures are not (only) a Compensatory Device - Evidence from Language Learners"

Marianne Gullberg

Lund University
Professor psycholinguistics,Director HumanitiesLab
Linguistics and Phonetics
Centre for Languages and Literature

It is often assumed that gestures are essentially compensatory in nature and help speakers convey information they have difficulties expressing, facilitate lexical retrieval, and help speakers tosolve cognitive problems. Gestures are thus seen as both communicatively and cognitively compensatory. This view is especially common in research focused on "less competent" language users such as a child and adult language learners, or atypical populations. These assumptions can also be found in theories about the relationship between speech and gesture.

Marianne Gullberg, Professor of Psycholinguistics and Director of the HumanitiesLab, Lund University in Germany,  challenges this compensatory view of gestures by discussing three specific assumptions: 1) gestures replace speech in cases of trouble, 2) gestures replace vocabulary, 3) gestures express meaning not found in speech. By looking at disfluencies and bimodal information structure in child and adult learner data,  she will show that gestures are co-ordinated with fluent speech, not with disfluencies; that when gestures are recruited to compensate, different problems have different gestural solutions; and that children and adults generally express similar information bimodally. Based on these observations, she argues for a more nuanced view of the speech-gesture relationship in production, especially in language development.

Monday, February 24th, 2014, 1:00-3:00 at the George Wells Knight House, 104 East 15th Ave

In our first meeting we plan to begin our series of conversations on multimodality and/in second language acquisition with a discussion of Ron Scollon and Suzie Wong Scollon “Multimodality and Language: A Retrospective and Prospective View” (published in The Routledge Handbook of Multimodal Analysis, 2009).


Coordinated by:

Carmen Taleghani-Nikazm

Carmen Taleghani-Nikazm (GLL),

Leslie Moore doing field work

Leslie Moore (EDUTL) while doing field work,


Our goal with the pilot working group is to generate a series of conversations among colleagues and students from different language science disciplines (Education, Foreign Languages, Linguistics, Psychology) on multimodality and/in second language acquisition.  We will explore and discuss recent studies conducted within different paradigms, including experimental psycholinguistic work (e.g. Gulberg & DeBot 2010) and socio-interactionist studies (e.g. Mondada & Pekarek Doehler 2004) that have examined the deployment and processing of multiple semiotic/interactional resources (gestures; gaze; prosodic features; and facial, spatial and postural configurations).  These studies suggest that only in the combined analysis of diverse multimodality, where one looks at the temporal and spatial relation between gesture, talk, prosodic features, and gaze, are we able to build grounded interpretations of social and cognitive processes of language learning and of language learning practices in particular communities.  
In addition to regular meetings during the fall semester, we plan to invite one speaker whose recent work will be discussed by the group.