Filipino Sign Language | Philippine Indigenous Languages Lecture Series

  • Date: 17 Jul 2023 | 3:30 PM - 4:30 PM
  • Venue: Facebook Livestreaming

Filipino Sign Language numerals and the expansion of Deaf linguistic repertoire

Philippine Indigenous Languages Lecture Series (PILLS)
17 July 2023 | 3:30 PM | Livestreaming via Facebook & YouTube


While in spoken languages we see a variant of a numeral word historically changing and replacing another variant, in sign languages we observe that variants of the same lexical item are rather retained. This has something to do with their function. The linguistic repertoire of a deaf signer allows this retention because of the functions that they serve in the constantly changing communicative environment, often characterized by the type of interlocutor (signing vs. non-signing; deaf vs. hearing). In broader contexts where the interlocutors vary, the deaf person chooses specific forms to use (e.g., iconic or opaque). 

As a language system, Filipino Sign Language (FSL) is a mixture of unique traditional and regional signs, signs borrowed from American Sign Language (ASL) (including phonological and semantic variants), and lexicalized signs based on Manually-Coded English (MCE). In this talk, I will provide evidence of lexical variation in FSL in the domain of numerals, a domain that resists variation in spoken languages. I will argue that the different ways that numbers are signed are due to (1) the availability of iconic options, (2) the effect of contact with ASL, English, and spoken languages in the surrounding community, and (3) the different functions that the varying lexical signs serve in different contexts of communication.