Systematic mappings between semantic categories and types of iconic representations in the manual modality: A normed database of silent gesture

Gerardo Ortega, Aslı Özyürek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
251 Downloads (Pure)


An unprecedented number of empirical studies have shown that iconic gestures-those that mimic the sensorimotor attributes of a referent-contribute significantly to language acquisition, perception, and processing. However, there has been a lack of normed studies describing generalizable principles in gesture production and in comprehension of the mappings of different types of iconic strategies (i.e., modes of representation; Müller, 2013). In Study 1 we elicited silent gestures in order to explore the implementation of different types of iconic representation (i.e., acting, representing, drawing, and personification) to express concepts across five semantic domains. In Study 2 we investigated the degree of meaning transparency (i.e., iconicity ratings) of the gestures elicited in Study 1. We found systematicity in the gestural forms of 109 concepts across all participants, with different types of iconicity aligning with specific semantic domains: Acting was favored for actions and manipulable objects, drawing for nonmanipulable objects, and personification for animate entities. Interpretation of gesture-meaning transparency was modulated by the interaction between mode of representation and semantic domain, with some couplings being more transparent than others: Acting yielded higher ratings for actions, representing for object-related concepts, personification for animate entities, and drawing for nonmanipulable entities. This study provides mapping principles that may extend to all forms of manual communication (gesture and sign). This database includes a list of the most systematic silent gestures in the group of participants, a notation of the form of each gesture based on four features (hand configuration, orientation, placement, and movement), each gesture's mode of representation, iconicity ratings, and professionally filmed videos that can be used for experimental and clinical endeavors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51–67
JournalBehaviour Research Methods
Early online date20 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - 20 Feb 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, The Author(s).

Copyright 2019 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Iconicity
  • Modes of representation
  • Normed database
  • Perception of iconicity
  • Silent gesture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Systematic mappings between semantic categories and types of iconic representations in the manual modality: A normed database of silent gesture'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this