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  • Author or Editor: Carla L. Hudson Kam x
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Abstract

The iconic potential of sign languages suggests that the establishment of a conventionalized set of form-meaning pairings should be relatively easy. However, even an iconic form has to be interpreted correctly for it to conventionalize. In sign languages, spatial modulations are used to indicate real spatial relationships (locative) and grammatical relations. The former is a more-or-less direct representation of how things are situated with respect to each other. Grammatical space, in contrast, is more abstract. As such, the former would seem to be more interpretable than the latter, and so on the face of it, should be more likely to conventionalize in a new sign language. But in at least one emerging sign language the grammatical use of space is conventionalizing first. We argue that this is due to the grammatical use of space being easier to understand correctly, using data from four experiments investigating hearing non-signers interpretation of spatially modulated gestures.

In: Language Dynamics and Change