Visual foreign accent in an emerging sign language

Wendy Sandler, Gal Belsitzman, Irit Meir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the study of sign language phonology, little attention has been paid to the phonetic detail that distinguishes one sign language from another. We approach this issue by studying the foreign accent of signers of a young sign language - Al-Sayyid Bedouin Sign Language (ABSL) - which is in contact with another sign language in the region, Israeli Sign Language (ISL). By comparing ISL signs and sentences produced by ABSL signers with those of ISL signers, we uncover language particular features at a level of detail typically overlooked in sign language research. For example, within signs we find reduced occlusion (lack of contact), and across phrases there is frequent long distance spreading of the nondominant hand. This novel study of an emerging language in a language contact environment provides a model for comparative sign language phonology, and suggests that a community's signature accent is part of the evolution of a phonological system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)233-257
Number of pages25
JournalSign Language and Linguistics (Online)
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 30 Oct 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© John Benjamins Publishing Company.


  • Foreign accent
  • Language contact
  • Language emergence
  • Phonology and phonetics
  • Sign language
  • Sociophonetics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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