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Comparing Iconicity Trade-Offs in Cena and Libras during a Sign Language Production Task

Stoianov, Diane; Da Silva, Diná Souza; Freitas, Jó Carlos Neves; Almeida-Silva, Anderson; Nevins, Andrew; (2022) Comparing Iconicity Trade-Offs in Cena and Libras during a Sign Language Production Task. Languages , 7 (2) , Article 98. 10.3390/languages7020098. Green open access

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Abstract

Although classifier constructions generally aim for highly iconic depictions, like any other part of language they may be constrained by phonology. We compare utterances containing motion events between signers of Cena, an emerging rural sign language in Brazil, and Libras, the national sign language of Brazil, to investigate whether a difference in time-depth—a relevant factor in phonological reorganisation—influences trade-offs involving iconicity. First, we find that contrary to what may be expected, given that emerging sign languages exhibit great variation and favour highly iconic prototypes, Cena signers exhibit neither greater variation nor the use of more complex handshapes in classifier constructions. We also report a divergence from findings on Nicaraguan Sign Language (NSL) in how signers encode movement in a young language, showing that Cena signers tend to encode manner and path simultaneously, unlike NSL signers of comparable cohorts. Cena signers therefore pattern more like non-signing gesturers and signers of urban sign languages, including the Libras signers in our study. The study contributes an addition to the as-yet limited investigations into classifiers in emerging sign languages, demonstrating how different aspects of linguistic organisation, including phonology, can interact with classifier form.

Type: Article
Title: Comparing Iconicity Trade-Offs in Cena and Libras during a Sign Language Production Task
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.3390/languages7020098
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.3390/languages7020098
Language: English
Additional information: This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/) which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Keywords: sign language; phonology; iconicity; classifiers; language change
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Linguistics
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10147812
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