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Sign Language around the
A "signed language" is a language which uses manual
communication instead of sound to convey meaning- simultaneously
combining hand shapes, orientation, and movement of the hands,
arms, or body and facial expressions to express fluidly a
speakers thoughts (Wikipedia, 2006). Communication between
people using different sign languages is easier than
communication when people of different spoken languages meet.
Sign language provides access to an international deaf community
However sign language is not universal. Sign language develops
in communities where deaf people exist, but like spoken
languages, they vary from region to region (Klima, 1979). Sign
language of a certain region is not based on the spoken language
of that region , in fact their complex spatial grammars are
considerably different. Some sign languages have received
recognition and are well known throughout the world while some
have received no acknowledgment at all.
Hundreds of different types of sign languages are in use around
the world and they are at the core of local deaf cultures. Some
of these countries that have their own variation of sign
language include Australia, Argentina, Brazil, China, India and
many other countries. There are a various signed “modes” of
spoken languages that have developed, such as signed English,
Warlpiri sign language, British sign language, etc (Wikipedia,
2006). Each of these sign languages, though similar in many ways
have their own variations of certain words. How you would sign
“apple” in the English sign language could vary from the way it
is signed in the British sign language.
British sign language (BSL) is the sign languages used in the
United Kingdom (UK), and it the most commonly used among the
deaf community in the UK. Although the United Kingdom and the
United States both have English as a primary spoken language,
Bristish sign language is quite different from American sign
language (ASL). In BSL when you fingerspell you use both hands
whereas ASL uses one hand. BSL is a visual-gestural language
with its own vocabulary and grammatical structures ( Wikipedia,
2006). BSL has many regional dialects. Which is why signs used
in America or Scotland, for example, may not always be
understood in England and vice versa (Wikedia, 2006). Sign
language can also sometimes be a local thing, occuring in only
cities and towns, like the Manchester number system used mostly
by the locals of Manchester. Like many terms in the spoken
language that go in and out of fashion and also tend to eveolve
over time the same goes for sign language.
Australian Sign Language, or Auslan, is the sign language used
in Australia. It has been somewhat influenced by American Sign
Language, and British Sign Language (Bellis, 2004). Like other
sign languages, Auslan also has aspects of its grammar and
vocabulary that are quite distinct from English. Auslan is a
natural language distinct from spoken or written English (Wikipedia,
2006). English does have a great influence on Auslan especially
when it comes to fingerspelling. It is difficult though to speak
English while signing in Auslan because the word order is
different making it complicated to do both at the same time.
Although Auslan’s status and recognition is growing, there is
some speculation that it is an endangered language ( Johnston,
ASL, BSL, and Auslan are just a few of the hundreds of different
sign languages in the world. Although sign language is not
universal, each country does have it own distinctive sign
language that will continue to evolve over time. Even when two
Deaf people from different countries do not know International
Sign they can usually find a way to communicate with a mixture
of their own sign languages, gesture and mime.
Characteristically, this communication happens much more quickly
and easily than communication between two hearing people who do
not speak the same language (Maggs, 2005).
Bellis, M. (2004). Innovations for the hearing impaired.
Johnston, T. (2004). W(h)ither the Deaf Community? Population,
Genetics, and the
Future of Australian Sign Language, American Annals of the Deaf
- Volume 148, Number 5, Spring 2004, pp. 358-375. Gallaudet
Klima, Edward S.; & Bellugi, Ursula. (1979). The signs of
language. Cambridge, MA:
Harvard University Press.
Maggs, Trevor. (2005). Australian Association of the deaf Inc.
The Australian deaf Community. http://www.aad.org.au/info/deafcomm.php
Wikipedia Foundation, Inc. 6 December 2006. Wikipedia: The free
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