Language emergence: Al-sayyid bedouin sign language

Wendy Sandler, Mark Aronoff, Carol Padden, Irit Meir

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Humans naturally acquire the language or languages that they are exposed to in early childhood, but these languages are different from one another and are all the product of historical change over many millennia, much of it resulting from chance. Natural sign languages are social creations that emerge in communities with an acute need to communicate. Many sign languages in Europe and North America developed from the establishment of schools for deaf children through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The study of new sign languages such as Al-Sayyid Bedouin Sign Language (ABSL) offers a real-life view of how a language emerges a new, how it conventionalizes and spreads across users in a community. A fundamental property of human language is the existence of syntax, the level of organization that contains conventions for combining symbolic units, the words. The chapter also discusses lexicons, phonology, morphology, and semantics that characterize language.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Handbook of Linguistic Anthropology
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages35
ISBN (Electronic)9781139342872
ISBN (Print)9781107030077
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Cambridge University Press 2014.


  • Al-sayyid bedouin sign language
  • Human language
  • Language emergence
  • Lexicons
  • Morphology
  • Natural sign languages
  • Phonology
  • Semantics
  • Syntax

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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