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From Conventional Gestures to Sign Language: The Case of Yoruba Sign Language
lanik la Orie
244-251 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


Kendon (1988a) once distinguished gestures of different kinds, which were later arranged along a continuum named "Kendon's continuum" by McNeill (1992): gesticulations, pantomimes, emblems or conventional gestures, and signs. Whereas gesticulations and conventional gestures are accompanied by speech, pantomime and signs are produced in the obligatory absence of speech (McNeill 1992). The result of this proposal is that sign languages appear to be self-contained systems occurring with neither speech nor gesture (McCleary and Viotti 2009). In this paper, evidence is presented from Yoruba showing that the conventionalized gestural system of the spoken language has taken its own course of development as an autonomous sign language (YSL) due to interaction among members of a small deaf community in Akure. The paper presents evidence from numerals, color terms, and pronouns showing that YSL is a convergence of speech, gesture and sign.

Published in

Selected Proceedings of the 43rd Annual Conference on African Linguistics: Linguistic Interfaces in African Languages
edited by lanik la Orie and Karen W. Sanders
Table of contents
Printed edition: $320.00