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An early reference work with broad scope is Klima and Bellugi 1979, which covers a variety of topics in sign language research, from iconicity and phonology to grammatical processes and poetry. Fischer and Siple 1990 grew out of the first conference on the linguistics of sign language, which has now become a regular biennial/triennial international series. Meier, et al. 2002 was the first book to address directly the effects of the different modalities, visual and auditory, on the structure of signed and spoken languages. Sandler and Lillo-Martin 2006 is a massive work on the linguistic structure of sign language, concentrating primarily on phonology, syntax, and morphology. Several areas are covered with a more formal approach, most notably the syntax chapters that formalize sign language structure according to a generative framework. Brentari 2010 is divided into three parts: the first and third parts deal with the history and variation of different sign languages, whereas the second part deals mostly with the structure of sign languages. The first part is especially useful as a resource on the history of sign language in different regions, and the third part is excellent for understanding how social factors affect sign language, with specific cases discussed. Most recently, Pfau, et al. 2012 brings together top researchers in an impressive handbook covering the field of sign language linguistics from all angles in forty-four chapters, distributed over nine sections. The handbook serves as an overview of the field and an introduction and reference work for its various subfields today.
Brentari, Diane, ed. 2010. Sign languages. Cambridge Language Surveys. Cambridge, UK, and New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.
DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511712203E-mail Citation »
The first and third parts of this book are especially useful, since they focus on areas largely neglected by the other volumes mentioned here. An excellent introduction to the history and social variation of sign languages, as well as to the main questions about the linguistic structure of sign languages.
Fischer, Susan, and Patricia Siple, eds. 1990. Theoretical issues in sign language research. Vol. 1, Linguistics. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.
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This volume contains chapters covering various areas of sign language linguistics, with phonology and syntax being the most prominently represented areas. The phonology chapters present various models of representing the phonological structure of signs, whereas the syntax chapters mainly cover pronouns/deixis and motion verbs.
Klima, Edward S., and Ursula Bellugi, eds. 1979. The signs of language. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.
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This well-cited volume serves as an excellent reference work for most areas of sign language research. With papers categorized into four sections, this book presents case studies and results from experimental research on iconicity, word formation, and grammar, and language use, many of which continue to be cited and useful today.
Meier, Richard, Kearsy Cormier, and David Quinto-Pozos, eds. 2002. Modality and structure in signed and spoken languages. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.
DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511486777E-mail Citation »
This edited volume addresses an issue that had largely been ignored in the early years of sign language research: the effect of the different modality of transmission on the nature and structure of sign language. The seventeen chapters are divided into the following topics: phonology, gesture and iconicity, syntax, and use of space in particular grammatical constructions.
Pfau, Roland, Markus Steinbach, and Bencie Woll, eds. 2012. Sign language: An international handbook. Boston: Walter de Gruyter.
DOI: 10.1515/9783110261325E-mail Citation »
This handbook of sign language linguistics, possibly the most comprehensive to date, contains an extensive array of chapters covering all the main areas of research in the field. It is an up-to-date reference work for anyone looking for an overview of any area of research within the field.
Sandler, Wendy, and Diane Lillo-Martin. 2006. Sign language and linguistic universals. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.
DOI: 10.1017/CBO9781139163910E-mail Citation »
An exhaustive work covering all areas related to linguistic structure of sign language. Though useful as a general reference work, some parts adopt a formal approach to linguistic study (for example, the syntax section uses the tools of generative linguistics).