Wednesday, June 15, 2011

History of Sign Language

Sign language is a language which, instead of acoustically conveyed sound patterns, uses visually transmitted sign patterns (manual communication, body language) to convey meaning—simultaneously combining hand shapes, orientation and movement of the hands, arms or body, and facial expressions to fluidly express a speaker's thoughts.
Wherever communities of deaf people exist, sign languages develop. Their complex spatial grammars are markedly different from the grammars of spoken languages.
Stokoe, William C. (1976). Dictionary of American Sign Language on Linguistic Principles. Linstok Press. ISBN 0-932130-01-1.Stokoe, William C. (1960).

Hundreds of sign languages are in use around the world and are at the cores of local deaf cultures. Some sign languages have obtained some form of legal recognition, while others have no status at all.
ASL is what is commonly used in North America, but even from BC to Toronto, you will find that the signs can and will differ based on what is culturally accepted in that area. But don't worry, the Deaf community will correct you, if you get a sign wrong or if it differs from their area.
Even with the most basic signs, you can communicate with the Deaf and they LOVE it when you try to communicate with them. I have always found people who are Deaf are very patient and enjoy teaching sign, even if they don't know you.

I have taught baby signs to my son Geran since he was born 23 months ago, he has over 70 signs and is well ahead in his literacy skills. I have already started signing MILK to my new 2 week old, Nash. Geran started signing back to me at age 4 months, mimicking the sign MILK and then spontaneously using it at 6 months. I am curious at what age Nash starts. With Geran helping teach sign as well, will he be even more accelerated? In the meantime, I hope Geran doesn't loose his passion for signing. It would be great if he could sign simple sentences with the Deaf community. We will see.

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