Monday, June 28, 2010

New Sign Language Evolves Before Our Eyes

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One of the things you may not know about me is that when I was 16 & 17 I was a volunteer sign language interpreter at my parent's church. Signing is a place where my Aspie exaggerated face-making was a benefit and it got me out of having to sit in the first couple rows with my parents. It was a pretty big confidence building thing for me.

Anyhoo, that's just kinda background to clue you in to why a post about a new Nicaraguan sign language on the Not Exactly Rocket Science blog caught my interest. The basics of the sign language are as follows:

In the 1970s, a group of deaf Nicaraguan schoolchildren invented a new language. The kids were the first to enroll in Nicaragua’s new wave of special education schools. At first, they struggled with the schools’ focus on Spanish and lip-reading, but they found companionship in each other. It was the first time that deaf people from all over the country could gather in large numbers and through their interactions – in the schoolyard and the bus – Nicaraguan Sign Language (NSL) spontaneously came into being.

NSL is not a direct translation of Spanish – it is a language in its own right, complete with its own grammar and vocabulary. Its child inventors created it naturally by combining and adding to gestures that they had used at home. Gradually, the language became more regular, more complex and faster. Ever since, NSL has been a goldmine for scientists, providing an unparalleled opportunity to study the emergence of a new language.
The post goes on to explain how one experiment has shown the new language's affect on "spacial reasoning skills." It was a very interesting article and you can read the rest of it right here. I think it's best points were about how language and mental processes are linked.

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1 comment:

Kim Williams said...

amazing. people WILL find a way!