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ERIC Number: EJ912640
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2010
Pages: 16
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 0
ISSN: ISSN-0018-716X
The Emergence of Two Functions for Spatial Devices in Nicaraguan Sign Language
Senghas, Ann
Human Development, v53 n5 p287-302 2010
The emergence of a new sign language since the late 1970s in Nicaragua enables us to capture the effects of successive cohorts of learners on an emerging grammar and to observe how elements are reshaped from one form and function to another. Here we document the contrastive use of a device that has been found to be central to the grammars of sign languages: the "spatial modulation" of signs. In Nicaraguan Sign Language, this device has two primary functions: expressing the participants of events (that is, indicating "who"), and describing locations and orientations of referents (that is, indicating "where"). We ask whether the two uses reduce to a single construction type, or if the more abstract "who" construction derived from the more iconic and concrete "where" construction. We compare the first two successive cohorts of deaf signers to acquire the language in its first decade. We find that as learners created new constructions to meet the new functions, they did not simply apply an already developed form more broadly, nor did they develop the more abstract application from the more iconic one. Instead, the more abstract "who" construction appears to have conventionalized first. Thus, the forms either emerged independently, or split very early in the 1980s, before either had developed as a consistently applied form.
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A