Shared Homesign Systems in Guatemala

Laura Horton

This project is an examination of emergent sign systems in the town of Nebaj, Guatemala. We work with homesigners – deaf individuals who cannot hear the spoken language in their environment and who do not have access to an established sign language. Many of the homesigners in Nebaj interact with other homesigners, either at school or at home, where they have deaf relatives. Our work documents the homesign systems of individual children in different communicative ecologies – minimal homesign input, peer homesign input or adult homesign input – to understand the impact of communicative interaction on the consistency of an individual’s homesign system over time and the cohesion of a system shared by homesigners in contact.