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  • Cited by 13
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    This chapter has been cited by the following publications. This list is generated based on data provided by CrossRef.

    Brentari, Diane and Goldin-Meadow, Susan 2017. Language Emergence. Annual Review of Linguistics, Vol. 3, Issue. 1, p. 363.

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    Goldin-Meadow, Susan 2015. The Impact of Time on Predicate Forms in the Manual Modality: Signers, Homesigners, and Silent Gesturers. Topics in Cognitive Science, Vol. 7, Issue. 1, p. 169.

    Haviland, John B. 2015. Where do nouns come from?. Vol. 70, Issue. , p. 65.

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    Edwards, Terra 2015. Bridging the gap between DeafBlind minds: interactional and social foundations of intention attribution in the Seattle DeafBlind community. Frontiers in Psychology, Vol. 6, Issue. ,

    Goldin-Meadow, Susan 2014. From Gesture in Conversation to Visible Action as Utterance. p. 289.

    Brentari, Diane and Coppola, Marie 2013. What sign language creation teaches us about language. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science, Vol. 4, Issue. 2, p. 201.

    Goldin-Meadow, Susan and Alibali, Martha Wagner 2013. Gesture's Role in Speaking, Learning, and Creating Language. Annual Review of Psychology, Vol. 64, Issue. 1, p. 257.

    Haviland, John B. 2013. The emerging grammar of nouns in a first generation sign language. Gesture, Vol. 13, Issue. 3, p. 309.

    Brentari, Diane Coppola, Marie Mazzoni, Laura and Goldin-Meadow, Susan 2012. When does a system become phonological? Handshape production in gesturers, signers, and homesigners. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory, Vol. 30, Issue. 1, p. 1.

  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: June 2012

24 - Deixis in an emerging sign language



If you look closely at any sign language, you will soon discover familiar local gestures – nods, hand signals, even facial expressions – embedded within the language stream. At least, these signs appear familiar. However, their meanings, and the way they are combined with other signs, differ in many ways from their gesture lookalikes. Evidently, the first signers of these languages adopted everyday gestures as raw materials and used them to build the language. Once the gestures became part of a language, their functions changed.

These functions go beyond basic vocabulary. Many researchers of sign languages have suggested that gestures from the ambient culture were a source of grammatical elements too (Newport & Supalla 2000, Casey 2003, Wilcox 2004). Studies comparing gestures with contemporary signs support such an account. For example, a Jordanian hand gesture meaning ‘wait a second’ appears to have been co-opted as a negative completive marker in Jordanian Sign Language (Hendriks, 2004), and a French gesture meaning ‘to go’ is the likely source of a future marker in American Sign Language (ASL) (Janzen & Shaffer 2002). There are nonmanual examples too: the raising of eyebrows often seen on the faces of English speakers when they produce conditional sentences appears to be the origin of the eyebrow raise required with conditional expressions in ASL (Pyers & Emmorey 2007), and common American head movements and body postures have apparently been reshaped into ASL markers of negation and role shift (McClave 2000, 2001).

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Sign Languages
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