Marcus Perlman

Cognitive Scientist

I am currently a postdoc at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, where I am part of the Language Evolution Group. In September I will be joining the Department of English Language and Applied Linguistics at the University of Birmingham.

My research is driven by two big questions. What is language? and Where did it come from? I'm particularly interested in iconicity and its role in the evolution of human communication. I'm also really interested in gorillas.


Perlman, M. (in press). Debunking two myths against vocal origins of language: Language is iconic and multimodal to the core. Interaction Studies

Winter, B., Perlman, M., Perry, L., & Lupyan, G. (in press). Which words are most iconic? Iconicity in English sensory words. Interaction Studies

Perry, L. K., Perlman, M., Winter, B., Massaro, D. W., & Lupyan, G. (2017). Iconicity in the speech of children and adults. Developmental Science, 2: 4. doi:10.3389/fcomm.2017.00004.

Massaro, D.W. & Perlman, M. (2017). Quantifying iconicity’s contribution during language acquisition: Implications for vocabulary learning. Frontiers in Communication, 2: 4. doi:10.3389/fcomm.2017.00004.

Perlman, M., & Salmi, R. (2017). Gorillas may use their laryngeal air sacs for whinny-type vocalizations and male display. Journal of Language Evolution, Advance online publication. doi:10.1093/jole/lzx012.

Tanner, J.E. & Perlman, M. (2016). Moving beyond ‘meaning’: Gorillas combine gestures into sequences for creative display. Language & Communication, 1-17.

Perry, L.K., Perlman, M., & Lupyan, G. (2015). Iconicity in English and Spanish, and its relation to lexical category and age of acquisition. PLoS ONE, 10, e0137147.

Perlman, M., Dale, R., & Lupyan, G. (2015). Iconicity can ground the creation of vocal symbols. Royal Society Open Science, 2: 150152.

Perlman, M. & Clark, N. (2015). Learned vocal and breathing behavior in an enculturated gorilla. Animal Cognition, 18, 1165-1179.

Fusaroli, R., Perlman, M., Mislove, A., Paxton, A., Matlock, T. & Dale, R. (2015). Timescales of massive human entrainment. PLoS ONE, 10, e0122742.

Blackwell, N.L., Perlman, M., & Fox Tree, J.E. (2015). Quotation as a multimodal construction. Journal of Pragmatics, 81, 1-7.

Perlman, M., Clark, N., & Johansson Falck, M. (2015). Iconic prosody in story reading. Cognitive Science, 6, 1348-1368.

Perlman, M. & Cain, A. (2014). Iconicity in vocalization, comparisons with gesture, and implications for the evolution of language. Gesture, 14, 320-350.

Perlman, M., Dale, R., & Lupyan, G. (2014). "Iterative vocal charades: The emergence of conventions in vocal communication," in Evolution of Language: Proceedings of the 10th International Conference (EVOLANG10), eds E.A. Cartmill, S. Roberts, & H. Cornish (Vienna), 236-243.

de Boer, B. & Perlman, M. (2014). Physical mechanisms may be as important as brain mechanisms in evolution of speech. Behavioral and Brain Sciences [commentary], 37, 552-553.

Perlman, M., Clark, N., & Tanner, J.E. (2014). Iconicity and ape gesture. In E. A. Cartmill, S. Roberts, H. Lyn & H. Cornish (Eds.). The Evolution of Language: Proceedings of the 10th International Conference (EVOLANG10). New Jersey: World Scientific.

Perlman, M. & Gibbs, R.W. Jr. (2013). Pantomimic gestures reveal the sensorimotor imagery of a human-fostered gorilla. Journal of Mental Imagery, 37, 73-96.

Winter, B., Perlman, M., & Matlock, T. (2013). Using space to talk and gesture about numbers: Evidence from the TV News Archive. Gesture, 13, 377-408.

Clark, N., Perlman, M., & Johansson Falck, M. (2013). The iconic use of pitch to express vertical space. In B. Dancygier, M. Borkent, and J. Hinnell (Eds.) Language and the Creative Mind. Stanford: SCLI publications.

Perlman, M., Patterson, F.G, & Cohn, R.H. (2012). The human-fostered gorilla Koko shows breath control in play with wind instruments. Biolinguistics, 6, 433-444.

Perlman, M., Tanner, J.E., & King, B.J. (2012). A mother gorilla's variable use of touch to guide her infant: Insights into iconicity and the relationship between gesture and action. In S. Pika & K. Liebal (Eds.) Developments in non-human primate gesture research (pp. 55-72). John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Perlman, M. (2010). Talking fast: The use of speech rate as iconic gesture. In F. Perrill, V. Tobin, & M. Turner (Eds.) Meaning, form, and body. Stanford: CSLI Publications.

Gibbs, R. W. Jr. & Perlman, M. (2010). Language understanding is grounded in experiential simulations: A response to Weiskopf. Studies in history and philosophy of science, 41, 305-308.

Gibbs, R. W. Jr. & Perlman, M. (2006). The contested impact of cognitive linguistic research on the psycholinguistics of metaphor understanding. In G. Kristiansen, M. Achard, R. Dirven, & F. J. Ruiz de Mendoza Ibáñez (Eds.). Cognitive linguistics: Current applications and future perspectives (pp. 211-228). New York: Mouton.

Media Coverage

A famous gorilla plays the recorder, and we all may learn something.

NPR (13.7 Cosmos & Culture blog), February 2, 2012.