When Grammaticalization Is Seen and Not Heard!

When grammaticalization is seen and not heard: the case of pointing in signed language emergence.

Wednesday, 2-7-18 Public Lecture @ 12:15 pm -1:15 pm
Location: Rockefeller Class of 1930's Room, reception to follow
Kate Mesh, University of Haifa, Israel

Signed languages provide a fascinating view of grammaticalization: the process of language change in which words or phrases take on new grammatical functions. This is because many of the expressions that grammaticalize in signed languages are drawn from outside of the sign lexicon—namely, from gestures used by hearing non-signers.

Pointing gestures are especially likely to be incorporated into the grammars of young, emerging signed languages: they are pervasive in everyday talk, crucial to face-to-face communication, and visually accessible to the deaf signers who create these languages.  In this talk, I trace the grammaticalization of pointing in three young sign languages: San Juan Quiahije Chatino Sign Language (Mexico), Israeli Sign Language (Israel) and Al-Sayyid Bedouin Sign Language (Israel). I show how signers of these languages adopt and adapt pointing gestures to serve a set of increasingly abstract grammatical functions.

Free and open to the public!

Sponsored by the Linguistics Program & AMES