Vol. 19, No. 1
Arab Sign Languages: A Lexical Comparison
Department of Communication, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA, USA
This article is a cross-linguistic examination of Al-Sayyid, Jordanian, Kuwaiti, Libyan, and Palestinian sign languages. It investigates the degree of lexical similarity between these languages to determine whether they belong to the same sign language family. Findings demonstrate that sign languages in the Arab world are varied and are unlikely to be related. I argue that this ls likely due to cultural and social practices in the Arab world that have led to a higher than average incidence of deafness within some communities due to consanguinity. But public education for deaf children in the Arab region was not established until the mid-20th century. As a consequence, sign language development in this region exists largely outside the domain of deaf institutions. Instead, family and tribe play a larger role. This case is distinct from Europe and North America , where the establishment of deaf institutions since the 18th and 19th centuries respectively has been instrumental to the history of Western sign languages.