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Morphological universals and the sign language type

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Part of the Yearbook of Morphology book series (YOMO)

5. Conclusion: Absl Holds Lessons For Typology

We have shown that established sign languages comprise a morphological type. In all these languages, visuo-spatial concepts and relations are represented in a motivated yet rule-governed and linguistic morphological system. Developed sign languages also show non-motivated, grammaticalized morphology, but to a limited extent, because they are young. ABSL shows neither the motivated nor the arbitrary morphology found in more developed sign languages. The lesson from ABSL is therefore that even the motivated morphology that we find in all established sign languages requires social interaction over time to crystallize. ABSL thus vindicates the new language prototype: little or no systematic morphology. This prototype was originally formulated on the basis of creole languages, but the formulation has run into empirical difficulty in recent years, as we noted above. Because ABSL is a completely new language, it allows us to distinguish between relatively young languages (established creoles and sign languages) and new languages, and to realize that the prototype holds of the latter.

Keywords

  • Sign Language
  • Sign Language Type
  • Word Order
  • Path Movement
  • American Sign Language

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

This work was supported by United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation grant number 2000-372 and the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders of the National Institutes of Health grant number 1 R01 DC006473-01. We thank the participants of the Fourth Mediterranean Morphology Meeting for useful comments and discussion on an earlier version of this paper, and an anonymous YoM reviewer for helpful comments. We also thank Diane Lillo-Martin for permission to use the ASL pictures in Figures 1 and 4 produced in her lab.

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Aronoff, M., Meir, I., Padden, C., Sandler, W. (2005). Morphological universals and the sign language type. In: Booij, G., van Marle, J. (eds) Yearbook of Morphology 2004. Yearbook of Morphology. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/1-4020-2900-4_2

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