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A Current Project in Collaboration with Carol Padden

This project is in collaboration with Carol Padden, a Professor of Communication at University of California, San Diego, and faculty at the Center for Research in Language. Dr. Padden has been documenting the variety in sign languages around the world by collecting signs for everyday objects, like tools and clothing. Specifically, she has been examining the handshapes used in these signs to discover the phonological principles that underlie language creation.

In the case of a new language, like Nicaraguan Sign Language, we are particularly interested in the relationship between signs and the kinds of gestures people use when they describe objects. Some gestures indicate how objects are held or manipulated. Other gestures show the size or shape of an object using the hands. What happens when these kinds of gestures serve as the raw materials for the creation of new signs? What patterns show up in NSL, and how do these patterns compare with older sign languages around the world?

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Project Publications

Martin, A., A. Senghas and C. Padden (2012). Gestural origins of nouns in sign languages. Delivered at the Fifth Congress of the International Society for Gesture Studies (ISGS5) Lund, Sweden, July 24-27, 2012.