Communication without a shared sign language
The magic of cross-signing (the use of international sign in interactions) is often explained by reference to the rich iconic powers of sign languages. Both in their lexicons and grammars, sign languages offer users many handles to help understand someone from another language background because so many lexical items have iconicity in them, and likewise the use of space and non-manuals is either similar or so iconic that it can be interpreted by signers from different cultural backgrounds. However, it is also possible that cross-language interactions are facilitated simply because of lexical overlap between languages. Both arbitrary and iconic signs can show resemblances in both form and meaning (’true friends’), or be deceptively similar, sharing the form but not the meaning (‘false friends’). This presentation reports on work in progress comparing the lexicons of multiple sign languages using various methods, all based on the datasets in Global Signbank.