Marie Coppola · Which aspects of language and cognition depend on linguistic input? Insights from homesign gesture systems
Researchers in the cognitive sciences have long debated the relationships between linguistic input and language structure, as well as the relationships between language and cognition. Homesign systems offer a unique window into these relationships. Homesigns are gesture systems developed by deaf individuals who are not exposed to conventional sign or spoken language input. Homesign systems exhibit a number of linguistic properties, but appear to lack others, which depend on access to a linguistic model and/or interaction within a language community. I will present evidence for structure in homesign from a variety of levels of linguistic analysis, including phonology and discourse structure. I will also discuss the cognitive consequences (or lack thereof) of linguistic (but not social) deprivation, particularly with respect to number cognition. Finally, I will present results suggesting that the linguistic structure in homesign systems is not entirely driven by communication factors.