Emerging Linguistic Features of Sao Tome and Principe Sign Language

Ana Mineiro, Patrícia Carmo, Cristina Caroça, Mara Moita, Sara Carvalho, João Paço, Ahmed Zaky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
145 Downloads (Pure)


In Sao Tome and Principe (STP), there are approximately five thousand deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals. Until recently, these people had no language to use between them other than basic home signs used only to communicate with their families. With this communication gap in mind, a project was set up to help them come together in a common space in order to create a dedicated environment for a common sign language to emerge. In less than two years, the first cohort began to sign and to develop a newly emerging sign language – the Sao Tome and Principe Sign Language (LGSTP). Signs were elicited by means of drawings and pictures and recorded from the beginning of the project. The emergent structures of signs in this new language were compared with those reported for other emergent sign languages such as the Al-Sayyid Bedouin Sign Language (ABSL) and the Lengua de Señas de Nicarágua (NSL), and several similarities were found at the first stage. In this preliminary study on the emergence of LGSTP, it was observed that, in its first stage, signs are mostly iconic and exhibit a greater involvement of the articulators and a larger signing space when compared with subsequent stages of LGSTP emergence and with other sign languages. Although holistic signs are the prevalent structure, compounding seems to be emerging. At this stage of emergence, OSV seems to be the predominant syntactic structure of LGSTP. Yet the data suggest that new signers exhibit difficulties in syntactic constructions with two arguments.
Emerging linguistic features of Sao Tome and Principe Sign Language. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/316894464_Emerging_linguistic_features_of_Sao_Tome_and_Principe_Sign_Language [accessed Nov 08 2017].
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)109-128
Number of pages10
JournalSign Language & Linguistics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Word order
  • Iconicity
  • Home signs
  • Sign language emergence
  • Language policy
  • Vocabulary development


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