Disentangling Pantomime From Early Sign in a New Sign Language: Window Into Language Evolution Research

Ana Mineiro, Inmaculada Concepción Báez-Montero, Mara Moita, Isabel Galhano-Rodrigues, Alexandre Castro-Caldas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
3 Downloads (Pure)


In this study, we aim to disentangle pantomime from early signs in a newly-born sign language: Sao Tome and Principe Sign Language. Our results show that within 2 years of their first contact with one another, a community of 100 participants interacting everyday was able to build a shared language. The growth of linguistic systematicity, which included a decrease in use of pantomime, reduction of the amplitude of signs and an increase in articulation economy, showcases a learning, and social interaction process that constitutes a continuum and not a cut-off system. The human cognitive system is endowed with mechanisms for symbolization that allow the process of arbitrariness to unfold and the expansion of linguistic complexity. Our study helps to clarify the role of pantomime in a new sign language and how this role might be linked with language itself, showing implications for language evolution research.
Original languageEnglish
Article number640057
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 14 Apr 2021


  • Early signs
  • Emergent sign language
  • Human communication
  • Language evolution
  • Pantomime


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