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Gesture and language: Cross-linguistic and historical data from signed languages

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In this paper I explore the role of gesture in the development of signed languages. Using data from American Sign Language, Catalan Sign Language, French Sign Language, and Italian Sign Language, as well as historical sources describing gesture in the Mediterranean region, I demonstrate that gesture enters the linguistic system via two distinct routes. In one, gesture serves as a source of lexical and grammatical morphemes in signed languages. In the second, elements become directly incorporated into signed language morphology, bypassing the lexical stage. Finally, I propose a unifying framework for understanding the gesture-language interface in signed and spoken languages.

Keywords: Gesture; cognitive linguistics; grammaticization; signed language

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of New Mexico

Publication date: January 1, 2004


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