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


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.