Can the comparative method be used for signed language historical analyses?


Is diachronic change in signed language regular in the ways that sound change in spoken languages is? Published studies to date have not attempted to show regular correspondences across signed languages. In this work, we apply the comparative method to six putatively related signed languages and detail the potential obstacles that the affordances of the signed modality produce for the comparative method, as well as the insights that the method’s careful application to related signed languages can yield.

Hamburg, Germany