Nicaraguan Sign Language

Just stumbled, courtesy of and , across the Nicaraguan Sign Language issue. It sounds absolutely fascinating: Here is an article from NY Times (“A Linguistic Big Bang“), plus some further discussion by ozarke on her journal. There’s any number of fascinating aspects to this, but to summarize, deaf children in Nicaragua have pretty much created their own sign language from the ground up, which is of great interest to linguists. So on the linguist front, there’s all this discussion of how much this tells us about how people are “hardwired” for language of any type and/or if there’s some “bio-language” and so on. I was amused at the one rueful note that this language — created by children — blows away other adult-created languages out of the water in richness and complexity.

There’s an interesting ethical dimension, because at this point, the children are being deliberately kept from exposure to other sign languages. Some are arguing that this keeps them from communicating with the deaf community at large. However, I note there’s trouble between ASL and BSL speakers anyway, not to mention MSL and so on. There is no international sign language. (I recently explained this to a friend who could barely wrap his mind around the notion that different countries had different sign languages…)

The constant attention in the article to the “young children” was at first perplexing, but then I realized this article is eight years old (!). So at that point I googled up a bit more information (see below). It seems to have continued developing, with each generation building on the last. One of the things that struck me very strongly in reading through all this was the social aspect. Nothing happened until all the children were congregated together. And now younger children have the chance to learn from older children and add further nuances. In this respect, I think this project is fabulous…

More information I found online:
Nicaraguan Sign Language
Where did Nicaraguan Sign Language come from?
Children create new sign language
SignWriting In Nicaragua

This entry was posted in deafhood, education, news. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.