Leah Geer: Sign Language Studies - Volume 11, Number 4, Summer 2011, pp. 594-605
Copyright 2011 by Gallaudet University Press


The purpose of this investigation is twofold: I determine (1) what and how kinship terms are used in Mongolian Sign Language (MSL) and (2) to what extent other languages and cultural practices have influenced the kinship terms in MSL. Through a variety of methods, including spontaneous production, as well as direct and indirect elicitation, data were collected from three deaf signers studying at Gallaudet University. The data suggest that a basic kinship system exists and that it appears to be native to MSL. This system is lineal and elaborated only for the immediate family and grandparents. It unifies the terms for all collaterals (e.g., aunts, cousins). However, it appears that Mongolian Deaf people prefer another kinship system, one that has been created by the lexicalization of fingerspelled sequences for analogous Mongolian kinship terms. It appears, then, that the most significant influence on current MSL kinship terminology is the majority spoken language of Mongolia and not the surrounding signed languages. The data, along with general comments from the consultants about their kinship terms, suggest that the extension of the basic system could have arisen from the desire to dissimilate from MSL's relationship to Russian Sign Language, which had a significant impact on MSL in earlier decades.

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