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Sign language


A sign language (also signed language) is a language which chiefly uses manual communication to convey meaning, as opposed to acoustically conveyed sound patterns. This can involve simultaneously combining hand shapes, orientation and movement of the hands, arms or body, and facial expressions to express a speaker's thoughts. Sign languages share many similarities with spoken languages (sometimes called "oral languages"), which depend primarily on sound, which is why linguists consider both to be types of natural language. There are, however, also some significant differences between signed and spoken languages, such as how they use space grammatically, sign languages show the same linguistic properties and use the same language faculty as do spoken languages. They should not be confused with body language, which is a kind of non-linguistic communication.

Wherever communities of deaf people exist, sign languages have developed, and are at the cores of local deaf cultures. Although signing is used primarily by the deaf, it is also used by others, such as people who can hear but cannot physically speak, or have trouble with spoken language due to some other disability (augmentative and alternative communication).

It is not clear how many sign languages there are. A common misconception is that all sign languages are the same worldwide or that sign language is international. Aside from the pidgin International Sign, each country generally has its own, native sign language, and some have more than one (although there are also substantial similarities among all sign languages). The 2013 edition of Ethnologue lists 137 sign languages. Some sign languages have obtained some form of legal recognition, while others have no status at all.

Linguists distinguish natural sign languages from other systems that are precursors to them or derived from them, such as invented manual codes for spoken languages, home sign, "baby sign", and signs learned by non-human primates.


Wittmann classification of sign languages
Primary
language
Primary
group
Auxiliary
language
Auxiliary
group
Prototype-A 5 1 7 2
Prototype-R 18 1 1
BSL-derived 8
DGS-derived 1 or 2
JSL-derived 2

LSF-derived 30
LSG-derived

1?


  • Stokoe notation, devised by Dr. William Stokoe for his 1965 Dictionary of American Sign Language, is an abstract phonemic notation system. Designed specifically for representing the use of the hands, it has no way of expressing facial expression or other non-manual features of sign languages. However, his was designed for research, particularly in a dictionary, not for general use.
  • The Hamburg Notation System (HamNoSys), developed in the early 1990s, is a detailed phonetic system, not designed for any one sign language, and intended as a transcription system for researchers rather than as a practical script.
  • David J. Peterson has attempted to create a phonetic transcription system for signing that is ASCII-friendly known as the Sign Language International Phonetic Alphabet (SLIPA).
  • SignWriting, developed by Valerie Sutton in 1974, is a system for representing sign languages phonetically (including mouthing, facial expression and dynamics of movement). The script is sometimes used for detailed research, language documentation, as well as publishing texts and works in sign languages.
  • Si5s is another orthography which is largely phonemic. However, a few signs are logographs and/or ideographs due to regional variation in sign languages.
  • ASL-phabet is a system designed primarily for education of deaf children by Dr. Sam Supalla which uses a minimalist collection of symbols in the order of Handshape-Location-Movement. Many signs can be written the same way (homograph).
  • Aronoff, Mark; Meir, Irit; Sandler, Wendy (2005). "The Paradox of Sign Language Morphology". Language. 81 (2): 301–344. doi:10.1353/lan.2005.0043. PMC 3250214Freely accessible. PMID 22223926. 
  • Baker, Anne, Beppie van den Bogaerde, Roland Pfau, and Trude Schermer eds., 2016. The Linguistics of Sign Languages: An introduction. John Benjamins Publishing Company.
  • Branson, J., D. Miller, & I G. Marsaja. (1996). "Everyone here speaks sign language, too: a deaf village in Bali, Indonesia." In: C. Lucas (ed.): Multicultural aspects of sociolinguistics in deaf communities. Washington, Gallaudet University Press, pp. 39–5.
  • Brentari, D. (1998). A prosodic model of sign language phonology. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Brown R. (1980). "Why are signed languages easier to learn than spoken languages?" in Proceedings of the First National Symposium on Sign Language Research and Teaching, ed. Stokoe W. C., editor. (Washington, DC: National Association of the Deaf), 9–24.
  • Canlas, Loida (2006). "Laurent Clerc: Apostle to the Deaf People of the New World." The Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center, Gallaudet University. Archived January 13, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  • Deuchar, Margaret (1987). "Sign languages as creoles and Chomsky's notion of Universal Grammar." Essays in honor of Noam Chomsky, 81–91. New York: Falmer.
  • Emmorey, Karen; & Lane, Harlan L. (Eds.). (2000). The signs of language revisited: An anthology to honor Ursula Bellugi and Edward Klima. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. .
  • Fischer, Susan D. (1974). "Sign language and linguistic universals." Actes du Colloque franco-allemand de grammaire générative, 2.187–204. Tübingen: Niemeyer.
  • Fischer, Susan D. (1978). "Sign languages and creoles". Siple. 1978: 309–31. 
  • Frishberg, N. (1975). Arbitrariness and Iconicity: Historical Change in America. Language, 51(3), 696–719.
  • Frishberg, Nancy (1987). "Ghanaian Sign Language." In: Cleve, J. Van (ed.), Gallaudet encyclopaedia of deaf people and deafness. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company.
  • Goldin-Meadow, Susan, 2003, The Resilience of Language: What Gesture Creation in Deaf Children Can Tell Us About How All Children Learn Language, Psychology Press, a subsidiary of Taylor & Francis, New York, 2003
  • Gordon, Raymond, ed. (2008). Ethnologue: Languages of the World, 15th edition. SIL International, , . Archived January 13, 2013, at the Wayback Machine. Sections for primary sign languages [5] and alternative ones [6].
  • Groce, Nora E. (1988). Everyone here spoke sign language: Hereditary deafness on Martha's Vineyard. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. .
  • Healy, Alice F. (1980). Can Chimpanzees learn a phonemic language? In: Sebeok, Thomas A. & Jean Umiker-Sebeok, eds, Speaking of apes: a critical anthology of two-way communication with man. New York: Plenum, 141–143.
  • Hewes, Gordon W. (1973). "Primate communication and the gestural origin of language". Current Anthropology. 14: 5–32. doi:10.1086/201401. 
  • Johnston, Trevor A. (1989). Auslan: The Sign Language of the Australian Deaf community. The University of Sydney: unpublished Ph.D. dissertation. Archived July 26, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  • Kamei, Nobutaka (2004). The Sign Languages of Africa, "Journal of African Studies" (Japan Association for African Studies) Vol.64, March, 2004. [NOTE: Kamei lists 23 African sign languages in this article].
  • Kegl, Judy (1994). "The Nicaraguan Sign Language Project: An Overview." Signpost 7:1.24–31.
  • Kegl, Judy, Senghas A., Coppola M (1999). "Creation through contact: Sign language emergence and sign language change in Nicaragua." In: M. DeGraff (ed), Comparative Grammatical Change: The Intersection of Language Acquisition, Creole Genesis, and Diachronic Syntax, pp. 179–237. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Kegl, Judy (2004). "Language Emergence in a Language-Ready Brain: Acquisition Issues." In: Jenkins, Lyle, (ed), Biolinguistics and the Evolution of Language. John Benjamins.
  • Kendon, Adam. (1988). Sign Languages of Aboriginal Australia: Cultural, Semiotic and Communicative Perspectives. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Kimura, Doreen (1993). Neuromotor Mechanisms in Human Communication. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Klima, Edward S.; & Bellugi, Ursula. (1979). The signs of language. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. .
  • Kolb, Bryan, and Ian Q. Whishaw (2003). Fundamentals of Human Neuropsychology, 5th edition, Worth Publishers.
  • Kroeber, Alfred L. (1940). "Stimulus diffusion". American Anthropologist. 42: 1–20. doi:10.1525/aa.1940.42.1.02a00020. 
  • Krzywkowska, Grazyna (2006). "Przede wszystkim komunikacja", an article about a dictionary of Hungarian sign language on the internet (Polish).
  • Lane, Harlan L. (Ed.). (1984). The Deaf experience: Classics in language and education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. .
  • Lane, Harlan L. (1984). When the mind hears: A history of the deaf. New York: Random House. .
  • Madell, Samantha (1998). Warlpiri Sign Language and Auslan – A Comparison. M.A. Thesis, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia. Archived June 8, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  • Madsen, Willard J. (1982), Intermediate Conversational Sign Language. Gallaudet University Press. .
  • Nakamura, Karen. (1995). "About American Sign Language." Deaf Resource Library, Yale University.[7]
  • Meir, I. (2010). Iconicity and metaphor: Constraints on metaphorical extension of iconic forms. Language, 86(4), 865–896.
  • Newman, A. J.; Bavelier, D; Corina, D; Jezzard, P; Neville, HJ (2002). "A Critical Period for Right Hemisphere Recruitment in American Sign Language Processing". Nature Neuroscience. 5 (1): 76–80. doi:10.1038/nn775. PMID 11753419. 
  • O'Reilly, S. (2005). Indigenous Sign Language and Culture; the interpreting and access needs of Deaf people who are of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander in Far North Queensland. Sponsored by ASLIA, the Australian Sign Language Interpreters Association.
  • Padden, Carol; & Humphries, Tom. (1988). Deaf in America: Voices from a culture. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. .
  • Pfau, Roland, Markus Steinbach & Bencie Woll (eds.), Sign language. An international handbook (HSK - Handbooks of linguistics and communication science). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
  • Poizner, Howard; Klima, Edward S.; & Bellugi, Ursula. (1987). What the hands reveal about the brain. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Premack, David, & Ann J. Premack (1983). The mind of an ape. New York: Norton.
  • Premack, David (1985). "'Gavagai!' or the future of the animal language controversy". Cognition. 19 (3): 207–296. doi:10.1016/0010-0277(85)90036-8. PMID 4017517. 
  • Sacks, Oliver W. (1989). Seeing voices: A journey into the world of the deaf. Berkeley: University of California Press. .
  • Sandler, Wendy (2003). Sign Language Phonology. In William Frawley (Ed.), The Oxford International Encyclopedia of Linguistics.[8]
  • Sandler, Wendy; & Lillo-Martin, Diane. (2001). Natural sign languages. In M. Aronoff & J. Rees-Miller (Eds.), Handbook of linguistics (pp. 533–562). Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers. .
  • Sandler, Wendy; & Lillo-Martin, Diane. (2006). Sign Language and Linguistic Universals. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  • Stiles-Davis, Joan; Kritchevsky, Mark; & Bellugi, Ursula (Eds.). (1988). Spatial cognition: Brain bases and development. Hillsdale, NJ: L. Erlbaum Associates. ; .
  • Stokoe, William C. (1960, 1978). Sign language structure: An outline of the visual communication systems of the American deaf. Studies in linguistics, Occasional papers, No. 8, Dept. of Anthropology and Linguistics, University at Buffalo. 2d ed., Silver Spring: Md: Linstok Press.
  • Stokoe, William C. (1974). Classification and description of sign languages. Current Trends in Linguistics 12.345–71.
  • Taub, S. (2001). Language from the body. New York : Cambridge University Press.
  • Twilhaar, Jan Nijen, and Beppie van den Bogaerde. 2016. Concise Lexicon for Sign Linguistics. John Benjamins Publishing Company.
  • Valli, Clayton, Ceil Lucas, and Kristin Mulrooney. (2005) Linguistics of American Sign Language: An Introduction, 4th Ed. Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press.
  • Van Deusen-Phillips S.B., Goldin-Meadow S., Miller P.J., 2001. Enacting Stories, Seeing Worlds: Similarities and Differences in the Cross-Cultural Narrative Development of Linguistically Isolated Deaf Children, Human Development, Vol. 44, No. 6.
  • Wilbur, R. B. (1987). American Sign Language: Linguistic and applied dimensions. San Diego, CA: College-Hill.
  • Wilcox, P. (2000). Metaphor in American Sign Language. Washington D.C.: Gallaudet University Press.
  • Wilcox, S. (2004). Conceptual spaces and embodied actions: Cognitive iconicity and signed languages. Cognitive Linguistics, 15(2), 119–147.
  • Wittmann, Henri (1980). "Intonation in glottogenesis." The melody of language: Festschrift Dwight L. Bolinger, in: Linda R. Waugh & Cornelius H. van Schooneveld, 315–29. Baltimore: University Park Press.[9]
  • Wittmann, Henri (1991). "Classification linguistique des langues signées non vocalement." Revue québécoise de linguistique théorique et appliquée 10:1.215–88.[10]
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