7 Things You Should Know About Sign Language

27 Sep
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1. Sign languages differ from country to country
Just like people in different countries speak different languages, sign languages also vary from country to country. This is because sign language naturally developed as Deaf people were interacting with one another.

2. Simple gestures can develop into a complete language
Previously isolated students at a school for the Deaf in Nicaragua started using their personal communication gestures, and created their own language. Although it started as a kind of pidgin for the Deaf, it evolved into being a fully-fledged language.

3. Sign languages are independent of local spoken languages
Even though spoken English is very similar in the United States and the United Kingdom, American Sign Language (ASL) and British Sign Language (BSL) are not the same. This also applies to other sign languages like South African Sign Language (SASL) and is because sign languages are generally developed within Deaf communities. Despite these differences, Deaf people who write, read and speech read do it in their local language.

4. Grammar gets fascinating with sign language
Like any other language, sign language has rules; these rules are just a lot more interesting… For example, moving eyebrows either up or down have different meanings. In case you were wondering, up-eyebrows are for yes/no questions and down-eyebrows are for questions relating to who/why/when/what.

5. Children learn sign language exactly like they learn spoken language
Babies learn to speak, and sign, through natural interaction with the people they spend time with. Deaf babies first start ‘babbling’ with their hands, then start making sentences by stringing signs together, and eventually start applying grammar.

6. Sign language and spoken language are both affected by brain damage
After sustaining an injury or experiencing a stroke, a person fluent in sign language may lose this ability, just like this could affect spoken language.

7. Language is visual
While sign language is very different to spoken language, it also has a lot in common – even when it comes to expression. Although the auditory nature of spoken language is useful for expression (we all know how effective emphasising a single word in a sentence can be) it is by far not the only method of expression. Even though it is not possible to accentuate words with voice in sign language, everything else like facial emotion, posture, hand and head gestures, pauses, ordering of clauses, intonation and melody is possible. This makes sign language highly expressive. Isn’t it amazing how incredible not only sign language, but all language is?

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