Behavioral and Brain Sciences

Short Communication

Sign languages are problematic for a gestural origins theory of language evolution

Karen Emmorey a1
a1 Laboratory for Cognitive Neuroscience, The Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, CA 92037 [email protected]


Sign languages exhibit all the complexities and evolutionary advantages of spoken languages. Consequently, sign languages are problematic for a theory of language evolution that assumes a gestural origin. There are no compelling arguments why the expanding spiral between protosign and protospeech proposed by Arbib would not have resulted in the evolutionary dominance of sign over speech.