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[Xmca-l] Re: Primitive or Ideal?

You might also want to check out John Haviland's work. He has been watching
a language emerge among a small group of 5 or 6 signers in Chiapas Mexico.
Here is his publications page:

The best papers on Z sign are the "Different Strokes" paper and the
"emerging grammar of nouns in a first generation sign language:
specificity, iconicity and syntax".

I hosted John for a talk here last week and he has some data documenting
the emergence of Z sign in the community. And I think his data can speak to
your question of "ends" in "beginnings".

I'll write more if I can find some time sometime soon. Meantime, below is
the the abstract for the talk he gave while here. Fantastically interesting


*Jointly inventing language: why, how, and what? *John Haviland, UCSD

 I will introduce a first generation "family" sign language from a Tzotzil
(Mayan) speaking village in highland Chiapas, Mexico. The family includes
three deaf siblings who have never met other deaf people, never been
exposed to another sign language, hardly been to school, and had almost no
contact with speakers of any spoken language other than Tzotzil. The deaf
individuals, who range from their early twenties to their mid thirties,
along with a fourth intermediate hearing sibling and a slightly younger
hearing niece, have grown up using and contributing to a shared manual
communicative system. Additionally, the oldest deaf woman’s now
seven-year-old son has simultaneously acquired his mother and uncles'
homesign and spoken Tzotzil.  Intensive fieldwork on this tiny emerging
language community began in 2008, although I have known all the
signers—part of the extended household of a *compadre—*since they were

This presentation concentrates on the collaborative co-construction of the
emerging sign language, dubbed “Z,” and on two central questions about
linguistic signs: where do they come from, and why do they emerge? Previous
research on manual gesture in Zinacantec Tzotzil allows direct attention to
possible semiotic sources therein for the homesign. Using both natural
observation and semi-experimental results, I posit various paths leading
from visible communicative action, sometimes through “iconic” co-speech
gesture, to grammaticalized "portable" signs which can be emancipated from
the immediate context of speaking, and which instantiate emergent
linguistic structure. The second generation signer’s socialization into
language demonstrates related processes of meta-iconic regimentation,
formal simplification, and syntactic regularization.  Finally, Z
illustrates how sociolinguistic and ideological divisions can emerge even
in a miniature speech community.

On Sat, Nov 22, 2014 at 12:32 AM, Andy Blunden <ablunden@mira.net> wrote:

> In the light of recent discussion about the role of the ideal in the
> development of language, and the notion of "primitive man," this old
> primitive thought it might be a good idea to read up on the case of
> Nicaraguan Sign Language. So, I've bought this book off Amazon. Does anyone
> know of criticisms of this author?
> Andy
> ------------------
>  The Emergence of Deaf Community in Nicaragua: "With Sign Language You
>  Can Learn So Much" by Laura Pollich
>  <http://www.abebooks.co.uk/servlet/SearchResults?an=
> Laura+Polich&cm_sp=det-_-bdp-_-author>
> The sudden discovery of Nicaraguan Sign Language (NSL) enthralled scholars
> worldwide who hoped to witness the evolution of a new language. But
> controversy erupted regarding the validity of NSL as a genuinely
> spontaneous language created by young children. Laura Polich's fascinating
> book recounts her nine-year study of the Deaf community in Nicaragua and
> her findings about its formation and that of NSL in its wake. Polich
> crafted "The Emergence of the Deaf Community in Nicaragua" from her copious
> research in Nicaragua's National Archives, field observations of deaf
> pupils in 20 special education schools, polls of the teachers for deaf
> children about their education and knowledge of deafness, a survey of 225
> deaf individuals about their backgrounds and living conditions, and
> interviews with the oldest members of the National Nicaraguan Association
> of the Deaf. Polich found that the use of a "standardized" sign language in
> Nicaragua did not emerge until there was a community of users meeting on a
> regular basis, especially beyond childhood. The adoption of NSL did not
> happen suddenly, but took many years and was fed by multiple influences.
> She also discovered the process that deaf adolescents used to attain their
> social agency, which gained them recognition by the larger Nicaraguan
> hearing society. Her book illustrates tremendous changes during the past 60
> years, and the truth in one deaf Nicaraguan's declaration, "With sign
> language you can learn so much."
> --
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> *Andy Blunden*
> http://home.pacific.net.au/~andy/

Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Anthropology
880 Spencer W. Kimball Tower
Brigham Young University
Provo, UT 84602