sign language

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sign language,

gestural communication used as an alternative or replacement for speech. Sign languages resemble oral languages in every way other than their modality. As with oral languages, sign languages are acquired spontaneously and have highly intricate, rule-governed grammargrammar,
description of the structure of a language, consisting of the sounds (see phonology); the meaningful combinations of these sounds into words or parts of words, called morphemes; and the arrangement of the morphemes into phrases and sentences, called syntax.
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 and phonologyphonology,
study of the sound systems of languages. It is distinguished from phonetics, which is the study of the production, perception, and physical properties of speech sounds; phonology attempts to account for how they are combined, organized, and convey meaning in
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. The three classes of features that make up individual signs are hand configuration, movement, and position to the body. Sign languages include those of Trappist monks, who have a rule of silence, and Plains Indians, where speakers of mutually unintelligible languages communicated freely. Australian aborigines and people of the Sudan and the Sahara also have a complete sign language. Many languages have conventionalized body gestures elaborated to accompany or supplement speech, e.g., the Neapolitan gesture language.

The widely used manual language of the deaf, or language of signs, was first systematized in the 18th cent. by the French abbé Charles Michel de l'Épée. It was brought to the United States by T. H. GallaudetGallaudet, Thomas Hopkins
, 1787–1851, American educator of the deaf, b. Philadelphia, grad. Andover Theological Seminary. In England and France he studied methods of education in schools for the deaf, and in Hartford, Conn.
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. As with any sign language, only a small percentage of signs suggest the form of thought they represent. Such sign languages also may have a syntax and grammar that differs dramatically from the language spoken locally. This is true, for instance, of American Sign Language, which, developed for the deaf, is a non-English system used in the United States and parts of Canada. A number of written systems for representing manual languages have been developed, and dictionaries of signs have been compiled. Often sign language is taught along with speechreading (see lip readinglip reading,
method by which the deaf are able to read the speech of others from the movements of the lips and mouth. It is sometimes referred to as speech reading, which technically also includes the reading of facial expressions and body language.
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) and with a manual alphabet, i.e., a method of forming the letters of the alphabet by fixed positions of the fingers in the air. See also deafnessdeafness,
partial or total lack of hearing. It may be present at birth (congenital) or may be acquired at any age thereafter. A person who cannot detect sound at an amplitude of 20 decibels in a frequency range of from 800 to 1,800 vibrations per second is said to be hard of
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See W. C. Stokoe, Semiotics and Human Sign Languages (1972); C. Baker and R. Battison, ed., Sign Language and the Deaf Community (1980); C. A. Padden, Interaction of Morphology and Syntax in American Sign Language (1988).

Sign Language


communication by hand or body movements. Sign language is used (1) by deaf-mutes and blind deaf-mutes; one should distinguish communication by sign language that is formed spontaneously among deaf-mute children from the codified sign language (common to all literate deaf-mutes) that is taught to the children; (2) in situations when for some reason it is impossible to achieve an understanding by spoken language, for example, in encounters with those who speak languages that are not closely related (North American Indians, Australian aborigines); (3) in situations when spoken language is prohibited (among Cistercian monks, among women of some Caucasian nationalities).


Boskis, R. M., and N. G. Morozova. “O razvitii mimicheskoi rechi glukhonemogo rebenka.” In the collection Voprosy uchebnovospitatel’ noi raboty v shkole dlia glukhonemykh, issue 7. Moscow, 1939.
Nikolaeva, T. M., and B. A. Uspenskii. “Iazykoznanie i paralingvistika.” In Lingvisticheskie issledovaniia po obshchei i slavianskoi tipologii. Moscow, 1966.
Stokoe, W. Sign Language Structure. New York, 1960.


References in periodicals archive ?
We have got about 10 trained teachers who hold free sign language sessions every Saturday," said Mohairbi.
She helped create a survey through her work with the organisation, gathering support for sign language to be taught in schools; and was in attendance when Holyrood's landmark BSL act was passed.
The CA, having regard to the representations of free TV licensees including those of TVB and the Working Group's recommendations, issued a direction to TVB today, requiring TVB to implement the sign language requirement, as follows:
There are around 400,000 persons in the country who use some form of sign language for communication.
966 or the Filipino Sign Language Act, which seeks to declare FSL as the national sign language of the Filipino Deaf and 'the official language of the Philippine government in all transactions with the Deaf.
Research has shown that sign language (for both hearing and deaf infants, toddlers, and preschoolers) provides the earliest possible mode through which children can learn expressive language skills and open the door to shared meanings.
Books, which are commonly used in Malaysia as the main learning tool for sign language may not be effective.
It makes sense to choose the candidate who can communicate in the common tongue, as sign language is restricted to the deaf and dumb.
A GCSE in British sign language will help promote social inclusion between deaf and hearing children and create a more inclusive learning environment.
The second topic of the conference was the sign language interpreters' training.
In efforts to break down the barriers of communication with the hearing-impaired, people with sound hearing will be able to attend Arabic sign language classes in Jeddah.
Dubai: People with hearing disability in the UAE will have a new dictionary of Emirati sign language that will help the deaf better communicate and learn the nuances of the new language.