Since the 1990s, the field of sign language typology has shown that sign languages exhibit typological variation at all relevant levels of linguistic description. These initial typological comparisons were heavily skewed toward the urban sign languages of developed countries, mostly in the Western world. This review reports on the recent contributions made by rural signing varieties, that is, sign languages that have evolved in village communities, often in developing countries, due to a high incidence of deafness. With respect to a number of structural properties, rural sign languages fit into previously established typological classifications. However, they also exhibit unique and typologically marked features that challenge received views on possible sign languages. At the same time, the shared features of geographically dispersed rural signing varieties provide a unique window into the social dynamics that may shape the structures of modern human languages.


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