The proposed work examines the gestural communication systems (homesigns) developed by deaf individuals in the absence of conventional linguistic input. Deaf children in the Unites States whose hearing parents choose oral education nevertheless gesture, though their parents avoid gesturing and rarely combine gestures into strings. Previous research has shown two-gesture combinations and a common gesture ordering across 10 deaf children aged 3 to 5 years in the United States. In contrast, my dissertation work demonstrated that the homesigns of three older deaf Nicaraguans (ages 9-24) are more complex. They produce much longer gesture strings, and each system shows a different, internally consistent gesture order. I plan to test two hypotheses regarding the factors underlying the discrepancy in these results. (1) In order to evaluate the role of development alone in fostering homesign complexity, I propose to directly compare the homesigns of young deaf children aged 3 to 5 in Nicaragua with the adolescent and adult homesigners I have previously studied in the United States, using identical materials and methods. (2) Nicaraguan parents do not focus on speech, and are consequently more willing to gesture with their deaf children. To evaluate the facilitative effects of having an active gesture communication partner in developing a homesign system, I propose to compare the structural features present in the homesigns of young (age 3-5) Nicaraguans and their American counterparts, who are unlikely to benefit from having a gesture communication partner. ? ?