sign language

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sign language (countable and uncountable, plural sign languages)

  1. (countable) One of several natural languages, typically used by the deaf, in which words consist of hand shapes, motions, positions, and facial expressions.
    • 2000, Wendy Sandler, Diane Lillo-Martin, edited by Mark Aronoff and Janie Rees-Miller, The Handbook of Linguistics:
      It is safe to say that the academic world is now convinced that sign languages are real languages in every sense of the term.
  2. (uncountable) The sign language (sense 1) that is used locally or that is mistakenly believed to be the only one.
    I'm taking night classes to learn sign language.
  3. (uncountable) Sign languages (sense 1) considered collectively.
    There are some unique properties found in sign language compared to spoken language.
  4. (countable or uncountable) Communication through gestures as a substitute for language, for example, between monks under a vow of silence or during trade amongst different linguistic groups.
    • 1847, Francis Parkman, The Oregon Trail:
      Even Maxwell the trader, who has been most among them, is compelled to resort to the curious sign language common to most of the prairie tribes.

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