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Deaf around the WorldThe Impact of Language$
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Gaurav Mathur and Donna Jo Napoli

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199732548

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199732548.001.0001

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Sign Language Humor, Human Singularities, and the Origins of Language

Sign Language Humor, Human Singularities, and the Origins of Language

Chapter:
(p.231) Chapter 7 Sign Language Humor, Human Singularities, and the Origins of Language
Source:
Deaf around the World
Author(s):

Donna Jo Napoli

Rachel Sutton-Spence

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199732548.003.0013

This chapter offers evidence consistent with the proposal that sign languages preceded spoken languages in the evolution of language. Using conceptual integration theory, the authors argue that what may be considered “just a funny story in British Sign Language” contains the human singularities needed to create novel mappings and compressions between pre-existing conventional cognitive parts and conventionally structured cognitive parts that make up human language. While it is arguable that spoken language could do without analogy, framing, and the like (though it would be vastly impoverished), it is entirely impossible for sign language to do so. Thus the fact that these human singularities emerged at roughly the same time as language makes sense if the first human language was signed.

Keywords:   sign language linguistics, British Sign Language, language evolution, Conceptual Integration Theory, human singularities, cognitive linguistics

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