Marcus Perlman

Cognitive Scientist

I am a lecturer in English Language and Linguistics at the University of Birmingham.

My research examines iconicity in speech and gesture, with special interest in the evolution of human communication. I also study the gesturing and vocal behaviour of great apes.


Jones, K. & Perlman, M. (2020). Illustrating the creative aspects of sound symbolism: Implications for theories of language evolution. In Proceedings of the 13th International Conference (EVOLANG13). Brussels, Belgium.

Perlman, M., Little, H., Thompson, B. & Thompson, R.L. (2018). Iconicity in signed and spoken vocabulary: A comparison between American Sign Language, British Sign Language, English, and Spanish. Frontiers in Psychology, 9, 1433.

Winter, B., Perlman, M., & Majid, A. (2018). Vision dominates in perceptual language: English sensory vocabulary is optimized for usage. Cognition, 179, 213-220.

Edmiston, P., Perlman, M., & Lupyan, G. (2018). Repeated imitation makes human vocalizations more word-like. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 285, 20172709.

Perlman, M. & Lupyan, G. (2018). People can create iconic vocalizations to communicate various meanings to naive listeners. Scientific Reports, 8, 2634

Perlman, M. (2017). Debunking two myths against vocal origins of language: Language is iconic and multimodal to the core. Interaction Studies, 18, 379-404.

Winter, B., Perlman, M., Perry, L.K., & Lupyan, G. (2017). Which words are most iconic? Iconicity in English sensory words. Interaction Studies, 18, 433-454.

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. (2014). Sensorimotor simulation in speaking, gesturing, and understanding. In C. Mueller, E. Fricke, A. Cienki, and D. McNeill (Eds.) Body-Language-Communication: An International Handbook on Multimodality in Human Interaction, Volume 2. Berlin: Mouton.

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.