Symbol and Symptom
This study examines the developmental routes by which gesture is codified into a linguistic system in the context of the natural signed languages of the deaf. I suggest that gestures follow two routes as they codify, and thus that signed languages provide evidence of how material which begins its developmental life external to the conventional linguistic system, as spontaneous or conventional gestures, is codified as language. The Italian Sign Language modal form ‘impossible’ is studied in detail, exploring the developmental route that led from Roman gestures, through liturgical gestures as depicted in medieval Italian art, through everyday Italian and Neapolitan gestures to its modal meaning.
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