Signed Languages

Sherman Wilcox

in The Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Linguistics

Published in print June 2010 | ISBN: 9780199738632
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Signed Languages


Deaf people are commonly identified as a group by their disability or handicap. This pathological perspective regards deaf people as having a medical condition, the inability to hear. This perspective also denies the linguistic status of signed languages, regarding them as defective forms of spoken language. A more appropriate way to understand deaf people is as members of a linguistic and cultural minority. Scholars now use the terms “deaf” and “Deaf” to distinguish the audiological condition of deafness from the cultural and linguistic identity, respectively. This article focuses on signed languages and discusses deafness as a cultural identity. It examines linguistic research on signed languages, focusing on their phonology, morphology, syntax, and fingerspelling. It then explores the relations between signed languages and cognitive linguistics, with emphasis on iconicity, cognitive iconicity, metaphor, metonymy, and blended mental spaces. Finally, the article looks at the link between language and gesture, as well as between gesture and grammaticization in signed languages.

Keywords: deaf; signed languages; cultural identity; phonology; morphology; syntax; fingerspelling; cognitive linguistics; gesture; grammaticization

Article.  9546 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics

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