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The emergence of phonology in six generations


Time frame

September 2017 - January 2022

Project description

It has been one of the great linguistic discoveries of the past century that sign languages parallel spoken languages on all relevant levels of linguistic analysis, including sublexical structure at the phonological level. Recent work on the emergent sign language used by the Al-Sayyid Bedouin of Israel has suggested however that phonology may not be present in the early stages of language formation. In this project we turn to Kata Kolok, a sign language which has been used by six subsequent generations of deaf native signers. As part of a collaboration with the Artificial Intelligence Lab at the Free University of Brussels, we will chart the lexicon of Kata Kolok and adopt computational techniques to identify the social and linguistic factors that have led to the emergence of phonology within this community.


This project is funded by FWO and NWO.


  • Free University of Brussels
  • Tilburg University


Hannah Lutzenberger, hannah.lutzenberger@ru.nl