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Sign languages, like oral speech, vary enormously around the world but experts know little about how the various dialects evolved.
Now a new study of 40 current sign languages and 36 historical versions has revealed that they all stem from five major sources.
Researchers - Versions - Sign - Language - ?
Researchers believe five main European versions of sign language — British, French, Spanish, Austrian and Swedish — spread around the world in the late 18th century and evolved to form the plethora of languages seen today.
Linguists have long studied the origins of human speech, with two centuries of research dedicated to unravelling the birth and evolution of human dialogue.
Researchers - University - Texas - Claim - Sign
But the researchers from the University of Texas claim sign language has been far less studied, despite being 'at least as ancient as speech'.
Justin Power, a PhD student at the University of Texas in the US and first author on the study, said: 'While the evolution of spoken languages has been studied for more than 200 years, research on sign language evolution is still in its infancy.
Histories - Sign - Accounts - Contact - Institutions
'Much of what we know about the histories of contemporary sign languages has come from historical accounts of contact between deaf educational institutions and educators.
'We wanted to know if a comparison of sign languages using contemporary and historical sources could shed light on how European...
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