Mark Aronoff: invited talk at Columbia University (November 2)

Mark Aronoff is invited to give a talk on “Word order in an emerging language" featured as the University Seminar on Language and Cognition at Columbia University on November 2, 2017. 
Abstract of Mark's talk is shown below.

Al-Sayyid Bedouin Sign Language (ABSL) emerged about 80 years ago, when four deaf siblings were born into a village family. We have followed the evolution of the language for over a decade, working with members of the second and third generation. Early on, we observed a significant tendency towards S(ubject) O(bject) V(erb), different from the SVO word order of the surrounding spoken languages. Subsequent research showed that hearing gesturers generally also tend towards SOV order. More recently, we have found that the tendency disappears when the Object of the Verb is human, suggesting a preference for placing the arguments of a predicate in order of their closeness to the speaker (‘me first!’). We relate this preference to an ability to recognize conspecifics found in lobsters.