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Cross-modal contact in shared-signing communities: Kinship


De Vos,  Connie
Language and Cognition Department, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;
INTERACT, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;

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De Vos, C., Nonaka, A., & Maypilama, E. (2012). Cross-modal contact in shared-signing communities: Kinship. Talk presented at the EuroBABEL Final Conference. Leiden. 2012-08-23 - 2012-08-26.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-000F-D264-A
Due to the particular dynamics of shared-signing communities, village sign languages are in intense contact with the spoken languages that surround them from the moment that they emerge. The vast majority of sign language users in these communities are hearing individuals who often speak multiple spoken languages. Most of these bimodal bilinguals are in fact semi-fluent signers. Because of these sociolinguistic factors, one may expect considerable overlap between the signed and spoken language within a single shared-signing community. This might have been particularly true for lexicalisation in core semantic domains that represent culturally-salient information such as kinship terminology. Comparative data from shared signing communities in Indonesia, Thailand, and Australia show, however, that there are considerable differences between the signed and spoken languages of these communities in the degree and types of lexicalisation despite shared cultural practices. Such discrepancies had not previously been attested between urban sign languages and the spoken languages of the wider hearing communities that surround them, suggesting that the social context in which sign languages are used may be crucial in the formation of signed lexica. Initial observations also suggest that rather than wholesale concepts, conventionalised gestures are more readily adopted within village sign kinship systems. While the outcomes of the interaction between village sign languages and the surrounding hearing communities in which they emerge may vary, these cross-modal contact situations provide a unique insight in our understanding of the coevolution and the calibration of cultural and communicative practices.