The Signs of Silence – An Overview of Systems of Sign Languages and Co-Speech Gestures

  • Emilija Mustapić University of Zadar
  • Frane Malenica University of Zadar
Keywords: visuo-spatial modality, co-speech gestures, sign languages, spoken languages


The paper presents an overview of sign languages and co-speech gestures as two means of communication realised through the visuo-spatial modality. We look at previous research to examine the correlation between spoken and sign language phonology, but also provide an insight into the basic features of co-speech gestures. By analysing these features, we are able to see how these means of communication utilise phases of production (in the case of gestures) or parts of individual signs (in the case of sign languages) to convey or complement the meaning. Recent insights into sign languages as bona fide linguistic systems and co-speech gestures as a system which has no linguistic features but accompanies spoken language have shown that communication does not take place within just a single modality but is rather multimodal. By comparing gestures and sign languages to spoken languages, we are able to trace the transition from systems of communication involving simple form-meaning pairings to fully fledged morphological and syntactic complexities in spoken and sign languages, which gives us a new outlook on the emergence of linguistic phenomena.


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How to Cite
MustapićE., & MalenicaF. (2019). The Signs of Silence – An Overview of Systems of Sign Languages and Co-Speech Gestures. ELOPE: English Language Overseas Perspectives and Enquiries, 16(1), 123-144.