Cover image for Original signs : gesture, sign, and the sources of language
Original signs : gesture, sign, and the sources of language
Armstrong, David F.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Washington, D.C. : Galludet University Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
ix, 190 pages ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library P116 .A754 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



By making no strict separation between language and gesture, this thought provoking work reveals that the use of signs by Deaf people to create a fully formed language also reflects a natural facet of communication development for all people.

Author Notes

David F. Armstrong, an associate professor in the School of Management and University Budget Director at Gallaudet University, received his doctorate in anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

In this groundbreaking book, anthropologist Armstrong (Gesture and the Nature of Language, Cambridge Univ., 1995), a professor at Gallaudet, brings his background in sign language to his work. He holds the conviction "that language has always been a `multichannel' phenomenon. This is to say that for most people, most of the time, linguistic communication involves visible as well as vocal signs." Taking a Darwinian perspective that the origin of abstract thought and language is "fundamentally undirected," Armstong proceeds to lead his reader through a rich array of information, including insights into the development of language from the perspective of linguistics, anthropology, biology, and philosophy. He focuses on the pioneering work of William C. Stokoe in the scientific study of signed language and suggests that manual gestures rather than vocalization may be the precursor of human language. Clearly written in a voice that is humane as well as scholarly, this book belongs in public as well as academic libraries.ÄJoan W. Gartland, Detroit P.L. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Armstrong's cogent, highly readable book explores the possible role of manual signing in the evolution of the human capacity for language. Armstrong explains the basic linguistic concepts and academic controversies in a way that makes for an excellent introduction to the study of language. But this is an introduction with an important difference. Unlike most authors, Armstrong includes gesture and signed language at every step, rather than treating the visual channel of language as an afterthought. He makes a strong case for the Whorfian, comparative, and relativist approach to languages as a necessary complement to the Chomskyan universalist perspective that has dominated the field in recent decades. Armstrong's historical analysis illustrates how the politics of social attitude has influenced scientific views about such questions as whether or not a signed language can be a real language in its own right. His argument starts with the premise that both forms, signed and vocal, are kinds of language, and he examines the important differences as well as the similarities between them, providing insight into basic questions about the nature and evolution of language as a multimodal phenomenon--audio and visual in its essence. All levels. A. Arno; University of Hawaii at Manoa

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Introduction: The Forest of Symbolsp. 1
I Where Did Language Come From?p. 15
2 The Rage to Orderp. 45
3 Speech and Signp. 65
4 Words and Sentencesp. 89
5 Simultaneity and Sequentialityp. 111
6 The Morning Star and the Evening Starp. 133
7 Forked Tonguesp. 151
Bibliographyp. 173
Indexp. 183

Google Preview