Variation and conventionalization in young sign languages

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

Abstract

Languages are constantly formed and changed by the opposing forces of variation and conventionalization. Yet it is not clear whether one of the two forces is prior to the other in language emergence, nor do we know how the two interact early in the life of a language. By comparing two young sign languages, Israeli Sign Language (ISL) and Al-Sayyid Bedouin Sign Language (ABSL), both about 90 years old, we argue that the initial stages of a language are characterized by great variation. Conventionalization ensues, but it does not proceed in a unified manner in all linguistic domains of a language or in all languages equally; some domains and structures conventionalize before others, and in some languages the drive towards conventionalization is stronger than in others. We provide evidence for the claim that the drive towards conventionalization is the result of various socio-linguistic factors, such as time, the expansion of the community, the expansion of language use to new communicative domains, and the need to signal social identity.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLinguistic Contact, Continuity and Change in the Genesis of Modern Hebrew
EditorsEdit Doron, Malka Rappaport Hovav, Yael Reshef , Moshe Taube
PublisherJohn Benjamins Publishing Company
Pages337-363
ISBN (Electronic)9789027262431
ISBN (Print)9789027203274
DOIs
StatePublished - 2020

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