Marcus Perlman

Colleges, School and Institutes


I joined the Department of English Language and Linguistics in September of 2017. Before coming to Birmingham, I earned my PhD in Cognitive Psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, with Raymond Gibbs. Following this, I was a postdoc at the Gorilla Foundation, where I studied under the gorilla Koko. I then did postdocs in Cognitive and Information Sciences at the University of California, Merced, and in Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Most recently, I was a postdoc in the Language and Cognition department at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics.

Research interests

My research is driven by two big questions. What is language? and Where did it come from? My main angle into these questions is through iconicity – resemblance between the form of a signal and its meaning. My work examines iconicity across a range of phenomena, from prosody in the production of spoken sentences, to word learning by children, to the gesturing of gorillas. I am especially interested in the role of iconicity in the evolution of human communication and the ongoing historical development of languages.

Willingness to take PhD students


PhD projects

I am looking to supervise postgraduate research on topics at the intersections of psycholinguistics, multimodality, metaphor, and especially iconicity. Some specific points of interest include:

Experimental studies of iconicity and metaphor in language production and understanding
Multimodal approaches to iconicity and metaphor in natural conversation, including the use of multimodal corpora
Experimental studies of iconicity and metaphor in the emergence and evolution of communication systems