The structure of signed and spoken languages

Autor/a: WILCOX, Sherman
Año: 1990
Editorial: Sign Language Studies, 67 (1990), pp. 141–151.
Tipo de código: Copyright
Soporte: Digital




Two questions Linguistic research on American Sign Language (ASL) over the past three decades has established without question that ASL is a natural human language, distinct from English (Stokoe 1960, Stokoe et al. 1965, Klima & Bellugi 1979, Bellugi & Studdert-Kennedy 1980, Wilcox 1988b). Linguistic studies of several other indigenous signed languages have led to the same conclusion: primary sign languages, those used (mainly) by deaf people, are fully developed human languages independent of the languages spoken in the linguistic communities in the same region. These findings raise two questions. First, what is the relationship between spoken and signed languages? Are signed languages merely analogues of spoken languages, the linguistic equivalent of the bat's wing (evolved quite differently from the bird's wing)? Or are they true homologues, biologically related, as the human lung is to the swim bladder of fish? One objective of research now in progress is to frame the study of signed languages in terms that will lead to answers to the question of relationship. Specifically, it will explore a model that describes both spoken and signed languages as gestures. Second, what can the study of signed languages tell us about the human capacity for language? (See Fromkin 1990.) Linguists have not hesitated to propose theories of "human language" based on data drawn only from spoken languages. By considering all natural human languages-both signed and spoken-we can gain a better understanding of how language is represented in the human brain.