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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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Some Observations on Research Methodology in Lexicostatistical Studies of Sign Languages

Some Observations on Research Methodology in Lexicostatistical Studies of Sign Languages

Chapter:
(p.38) Chapter 1 Response Some Observations on Research Methodology in Lexicostatistical Studies of Sign Languages
Source:
Deaf around the World
Author(s):

James Woodward

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199732548.003.0002

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

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