Chapter

Some Observations on Research Methodology in Lexicostatistical Studies of Sign Languages

James Woodward

in Deaf around the World

Published in print November 2010 | ISBN: 9780199732548
Published online January 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199866359 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199732548.003.0002
Some Observations on Research Methodology in Lexicostatistical Studies of Sign Languages

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This chapter gives an overview of how historical linguists classify languages into families. While the comparative method and internal reconstruction are preferable when abundant data are available, the limited data on sign languages indicate that lexicostatistics is the most useful method. This method is made reliable by using the Swadesh word list revised appropriately for sign languages. Languages can have multiple ancestors, that is, languages that have contributed significantly to the daughters (thus creolization is included). The history of sign languages must be studied, not assumed, in order to be understood. An examination of families of signs in Southeast Asia and Central America alerts us to the endangered status of indigenous sign languages, often at the hand of ASL.

Keywords: sign languages; endangered languages; indigenous sign languages; Swadesh word list; lexicostatistics; creoles; sign language linguistics; South East Asia; Central America

Chapter.  6422 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Language Teaching and Learning

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