The noun is an apparent cross-linguistic universal; nouns are central targets of language acquisition; they are frequently prototypical exemplars of Saussurian arbitrariness. This volume considers nouns in sign languages and in the evanescent performances of homesigners (and gesturers), which exhibit considerable iconic motivation. Do such systems mark nouns formally? Do they share strategies for forming nominal expressions? Individual chapters consider formal criteria for a noun/verb distinction in sign languages with different socio-linguistic profiles, strategies of "patterned iconicity" in a subcategory of nouns in both well-established and emerging sign languages, grammatical markers for a nominal class in a first generation family homesign system from Mexico, and the changing role of handshapes in signs referring to action and objects over the gradual development of a single deaf child's homesign. The volume is of special interest to scholars of gesture, sign languages, linguistic typology, and the evolution, socialization, and ethnography of language. Originally published in Gesture Vol. 13:3 (2013).
1. Where do nouns come from?; 2. Introduction: Where does "Where do nouns come from?" come from? (by Haviland, John B.); 3. The noun-verb distinction in two young sign languages (by Tkachman, Oksana); 4. Patterned iconicity in sign language lexicons (by Padden, Carol A.); 5. The emerging grammar of nouns in a first generation sign language: Specification, iconicity, and syntax (by Haviland, John B.); 6. How handshape type can distinguish between nouns and verbs in homesign (by Hunsicker, Dea); 7. Subject index; 8. Name index