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On language acquisition in speech and sign: development of combinatorial structure in both modalities.

Morgan, G. (2014). On language acquisition in speech and sign: development of combinatorial structure in both modalities.. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 1217. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01217


Languages are composed of a conventionalized system of parts which allow speakers and signers to generate an infinite number of form-meaning mappings through phonological and morphological combinations. This level of linguistic organization distinguishes language from other communicative acts such as gestures. In contrast to signs, gestures are made up of meaning units that are mostly holistic. Children exposed to signed and spoken languages from early in life develop grammatical structure following similar rates and patterns. This is interesting, because signed languages are perceived and articulated in very different ways to their spoken counterparts with many signs displaying surface resemblances to gestures. The acquisition of forms and meanings in child signers and talkers might thus have been a different process. Yet in one sense both groups are faced with a similar problem: "how do I make a language with combinatorial structure"? In this paper I argue first language development itself enables this to happen and by broadly similar mechanisms across modalities. Combinatorial structure is the outcome of phonological simplifications and productivity in using verb morphology by children in sign and speech.

Publication Type: Article
Publisher Keywords: acquisition, classifiers, componential structure, phonology, sign
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Language & Communication Science
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Available under License Creative Commons: Attribution International Public License 4.0.

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