Sign languages are of great interest to linguists because, while they are produced by the same brain, their physical transmission differs greatly from that of spoken languages. Wendy Sandler and Diane Lillo-Martin compare spoken languages with those that are signed, in order to seek universal properties of human languages. No prior background in sign language linguistics is assumed, and numerous pictures are provided to make descriptions accessible to readers.
Part I. Introduction: 1. One human language or two?; Part II. Morphology: 2. Morphology: introduction; 3. Inflectional morphology; 4. Derivational morphology; 5. Classifier constructions; 6. Entering the lexicon: lexicalization, back formation and cross-modal borrowing; 7. Morphology: conclusion; Part III. Phonology: 8. Meaningless linguistic elements and how they pattern; 9. Sequentiality and simultaneity in sign language phonology; 10. Hand configuration; 11. Location: feature content and segmental status; 12. The non-dominant hand in the sign language lexicon; 13. Movement; 14. Is there a syllable in sign language?; 15. Prosody; 16. Phonology: theoretical implications; Part IV. Syntax: 17. Syntax: introduction; 18. Clausal structure; 19. Clausal structure across sign languages; 20. Variations and extensions on basic sentence structures; 21. Pronouns; 22. Topic and focus; 23. WH-questions; 24. Syntax: summary and directions; Part V. Modality: 25. The effects of modality: linguistic universals and sign language universals.