Iconicity in the Igbo Sign Language

Authors: Maureen Azuka Ezeani (Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Nigeria)
Martha Chidimma Egenti (Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Nigeria)
Speaker: Maureen Azuka Ezeani
Topic: Anthropological Linguistics
The GLOCAL AFALA 2023 General Session


Iconicity is a relationship of resemblance or similarity between the two aspects of a sign: its form and its meaning (Meir & Tkachman 2022), and it is a general feature in all sign languages. This work sets out to investigate the manifestation of iconicity in the signing patterns of Igbo home signers, with a view to identifying the forms iconicity take in the language. A wordlist containing some iconically motivated Igbo lexical items is administered to selected deaf Igbo home signers to sign. The pictorial presentation of these lexical items is presented and motivations behind them also given. Using the descriptive approach, the data so collected are analysed and discussed under the concepts of size and shapes, expression of time, emotive and cognitive signs, and directional verbs. The study observes that the Igbo sign language is highly iconic, and that iconicity manifests in different forms such as direct iconicity, metaphoric iconicity, compound iconicity and arbitrary signs, following Klima & Bellugi (1979). The study concludes, in line with cross-linguistic findings, that iconicity is an essential of sign languages. The study recommends more scholarly works on iconicity in other African indigenous sign languages.

Keywords: Sign language, iconicity, home signs, Igbo.