LINGUIST List 12.1346

Thu May 17 2001

Qs: Lexical Creation (rephrased), Child Lang Text

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  1. Celso �lvarez C�ccamo, Lexical creation in signed languages -- rephrasing
  2. Yvonne Hindle, Children's Language Text

Message 1: Lexical creation in signed languages -- rephrasing

Date: Wed, 16 May 2001 03:40:29 +0200
From: Celso �lvarez C�ccamo <>
Subject: Lexical creation in signed languages -- rephrasing


Thank you to all who replied to my queries about lexical creation in 
signing apes.

I am aware that there is controversy about some of this research on apes 
trained on human languages. However, my intention was simply to find out 
about whether a particular type of lexical creation has been reported/found 
among signing apes. I would now like to extend the issue to natural sign 
languages. Let me summarize:

1) Koko is exposed not only to (a version of?) ASL, but to spoken US 
English as well. I hope this was clear from my first posting.

2) Koko has been exposed to the ASL sign for 'eyebrow(s)', /bringing one's 
fist to one's eyebrow(s)/. But she had never been exposed to any ASL sign 
for 'browse' (type of lettuce).

3) On the basis of partial homophony between the English spoken words 
"eyebrows" and "browse" (lettuce), Koko reportedly would have applied the 
ASL sign form for the former referent to the latter referent and thus 
created a new sign: the association between the form /bringing fist to 
eyebrows/ and the meaning 'type of lettuce'.

4) The two signs 'eyebrows' and 'lettuce' could then be said to be 
homonyms, like "bear" (animal) and "bear" (verb) in English.

5) This could be said to entail a type of de-indexicalization on Koko's 
part (the sign for 'eyebrows' is probably an index), and therefore a type 
of symbolization, quite different from lexical composition.

Now, whether Koko actually created THAT sign or not, let us take that as 
the starting point for these questions, again:

(1) Has this type of homonymic lexical creation based on (partial) 
homophony between two spoken words been reported in trained signing apes?

(2) If the answer to (1) is yes, does this say anything particularly 
interesting about apes' language abilities under controlled environments?

(3) Does the same type of lexical creation exist as a regular or sporadic 
procedure among (a) hearing users of natural signed languages (e.g. hearing 
children of deaf parents, when communicating among themselves or with 
parents); (b) post-locutive deaf users of signed languages who remember the 
auditive image of words; or (c) hearing communities who use auxiliary sign 

Thank you,

Celso �lvarez C�ccamo Tel. +34 981 167000 ext. 1888
Lingu�stica Geral, Faculdade de Filologia FAX +34 981 167151
Universidade da Corunha
15071 A Corunha, Galiza (Espanha)
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Message 2: Children's Language Text

Date: Thu, 17 May 2001 13:37:15 +0100
From: Yvonne Hindle <>
Subject: Children's Language Text


I have been passed details of a book review carried out by Jo Tyler. 
The book in the review is: 

Nelson, Keith E., Ayhan Aksu-Koc, and Carolyn E. Johnson (ed) (2001)
Children's Language: Developing Narrative and Discourse Competence,
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Children's Language's volume

The bookshop on campus can only find the following listed:
Children's Language: Narrative and Discourse Development (2001) - same editors.

They cannot tell whether this is volume 10.

Could you please tell me whether this is in fact the same volume?

Thanks for your help.

Yvonne Hindle
Research Fellow
School of Cognitive and Computing Sciences
University of Sussex
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