Coppola et al. | Article in Phonology

The article “Community interactions and phonemic inventories in emerging sign languages” by Marie Coppola, Diane Brentari, Rabia Ergin, Ann Senghas, Pyeong Whan Cho, and Eli Owens has been published online as an advance article in Phonology.

Abstract: In this work, we address structural, iconic and social dimensions of the emergence of phonological systems in two emerging sign languages. A comparative analysis is conducted of data from a village sign language (Central Taurus Sign Language; CTSL) and a community sign language (Nicaraguan Sign Language; NSL). Both languages are approximately 50 years old, but the sizes and social structures of their respective communities are quite different. We find important differences between the two languages’ handshape inventories. CTSL’s handshape inventory has changed more slowly than NSL’s across the same time period. In addition, while the inventories of the two languages are of similar size, handshape complexity is higher in NSL than in CTSL. This work provides an example of the unique and important perspective that emerging sign languages offer regarding longstanding questions about how phonological systems emerge.