Volume 2 Issue 19 - October 01, 2004

New sign language connects

DNIS News Network - Latest researches report a new system of sign languages developed by deaf children in Nicaragua.

According to observations in the last issue of the journal Science, children, not adults, are the keys to the evolution and development of language. When a school at Managua for the deaf was established in 1977, children were not taught sign language but developed a system of signs to communicate.

Language experts have argued for years about whether the basic traits of all languages are hard wired in the human brain or have developed by trial and error methods over the years. "It is the birth of a language, We are seeing evolution in actions, but what's evolving here is not an organism, it is a language system," said Ann Senghas, Psycholinguist from Columbia University, Barnard College, who led the study. This process can be noticed when a small child learns to talk and break the rules of grammar.

Senghas added, "The founding cohort of children started out with a gesture. They divided the movements into separate word with which they formed sentences. In sign language, they were hand motions, but different from mere gestures, they had a language." Her teams reported specifically on how the children described motion so differently. As additional groups learn the language, they expand on it making it more useful.

The founding children are now adults aged 30s, and have a different version of sign language than younger members of the community.

The Max Planck Institute funded the study for Psycholinguistics, the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, the National Institute of Health and the Turkish Academy of Science.

In response to the study, Arun Rao, Executive Director, Deafway, said, "This study would cater to the communication needs for deaf people and would go a long way in popularising sign language, especially enhancing the education system for deaf people."

"This also implies that every school for deaf in India have their own version of sign language," Rao added.

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