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Linguistics: Gestures and Homesigns

  • By: Jill P. Morford & Sandra K. Wood
  • In: The SAGE Deaf Studies Encyclopedia
  • Edited by: Genie Gertz & Patrick Boudreault
  • Subject:Physical Disabilities, Otorhinolaryngology (Ears, Nose, & Throat)

Deaf individuals living in isolation from the Deaf community have shown remarkable resilience in devising ways to communicate with those around them, often generating complex gesture systems called homesign systems (cf. home signs). Whereas all humans rely on gesture to communicate their thoughts to others, gesture use by deaf individuals can become highly elaborate and systematic. Anthropologists doing fieldwork in remote communities in the 1970s and 1980s published some of the earliest case studies documenting homesign systems. Currently, there are independent reports of homesign systems in Australia, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Britain, Canada, China, Guatemala, Iran, Japan, Mauritius, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Papua New Guinea, Rennell Islands, Taiwan, Turkey, the United States, and the West Indies. In this entry, the sociolinguistic contexts in which homesign systems ...

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