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Evolving artificial sign languages in the lab: From improvised gesture to systematic sign

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103964
Early online date11 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019


Recent work on emerging sign languages provides evidence for how key properties of linguistic systems are created. Here we use laboratory experiments to investigate the contribution of two specific mechanisms—interaction and transmission—to the emergence of a manual communication system in silent gesturers. We show that the combined effects of these mechanisms, rather than either alone, maintain communicative efficiency, and lead to a gradual increase of regularity and systematic structure. The gestures initially produced by participants are unsystematic and resemble pantomime, but come to develop key language-like properties similar to those documented in newly emerging sign systems.

    Research areas

  • silent gesture, iterated learning, interaction, transmisison, sign language, language evolution

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