The paradox of international sign
The Ethnologue lists 138 different sign languages, only a few of which are somewhat mutually intelligible. Most have different lexicons and different grammars, creating a situation like the one for spoken languages: to use and understand another language, one needs to learn it. Yet deaf people are known to have remarkable ease in communicating across language boundaries. In my presentation I will discuss the phenomenon of ‘international sign’, argue that it is a skill rather than a contact language, and outline its importance for deaf people across the globe. Moreover, I will present a supplementary hypothesis to ones already out there about why it is that deaf signers are so skilled in interacting with each other even in the absence of a shared (signed or spoken) language.