Date of Completion

Spring 5-1-2015

Thesis Advisor(s)

Diane Lillo-Martin; Matthew L Hall

Honors Major



First and Second Language Acquisition | Language Description and Documentation | Other Linguistics


In spoken as well as signed language, a shift over time from the use of Subject-Object-Verb (SOV) word order to Subject-Verb-Object (SVO) word order has been observed. The use of pantomimed gesture and priming can help determine the extent to which this shift comes from pressures specific to language, as opposed to existing as a more broad feature of communication. Participants took turns matching images to videos showing gestured event descriptions primed in SVO or SOV order, and gesturing event descriptions to a camera. Results show a strong preference for orders consistent with SVO across prime types, and an increase in these orders over rounds. These results suggest that the shift to SVO word order arises partially from experience in comprehending communication from others, and occurs even if that communication uses SOV order, not SVO.