Talk:Sign language

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Capital letters[edit]

Should the names of specific sign languages be capitalized? American Sign Language is capitalized, for example, but British sign language isn't. Which is correct? Bryan Derksen

My hunch was that British sign language should be capitalized and a Google search has confirmed this. On the first three pages of results there is only 1 example of the term not capitalized. This appears to be a proper noun, like American Sign Language.--maveric149
I love the new "move this page" function. So trivially easy... :) Bryan Derksen
Dude! How long has that been around? I've been doing things the hard way forever. Does it also fix redirects? --maveric149
Been around a couple of weeks, but I keep forgetting to use it. This was my first time. :) Yes, it automatically handles redirects by default, though you can turn that off if you want to for some reason. Don't know if it handles talk pages, though, British sign language didn't have one. Bryan Derksen
NOTE: minor typo corrected (ahve'->'have') above when manually undoing an edit that damaged/removed the above text/signature. Shelleybutterfly (talk) 22:52, 22 July 2014 (UTC)

Several languages[edit]

In Canada, there are several sign languages. We don't all use American Sign Language. In Quebec and Ontario, Deaf people from Francophone backgrounds typically will use Langue des Signes Quebecois. In New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, some older Deaf people still use Maritime Sign Language (although it is gradually evolving to be more and more like ASL). There are also reports of at least one sign language used by Deaf people in isolated Inuit communities.

Lford 20:07, 9 Feb 2004 (UTC)
I think there is some confusion about the dialects of sign language. It is well-documented in the history (not to mention evident today) of the deaf (See, "Harlan Lane, "When The Mind Hears: A History of The Deaf") that Canadians use American Sign Language and it was brought to Canada by Canadian students and teachers who attended the Hartford Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb in the 19th century. Quebec, indeed, uses it's own sign language but I wonder if it is not a localized dialect of French Sign Language. The United States has four distince dialects of American Sign Language: 1.) Eastern, 2) Southern, 3) Southern Black and 4). Western. I am caused to believe that the forms of sign language you are citing may be Canadian dialects of ASL. It would help if you would cite the source of your information. Ray Foster 00:08, 24 Dec 2004 (UTC)

LSQ (Langue des signes québécoise or Langue des signes du Québec) is as much a "localized dialect" of LSF (Langue des signes francaise) as ASL is... It just so happens that Sign languages sometimes have a different evolution than their oral equivalents. Where French and Quebec oral languages have a similar origin (until 1760), they evolved differently for the past 250 years or so. As far as LSQ is concerned, it is not directly linked with LSF since Quebec and France had only minor relationships when LSF was created (Quebec was then under British rule... some would say even today... but that's a different story !). Furthermore, LSQ borrowed some ASL signs to express North American concepts and words, especially in the Ottawa and Montreal areas where there are significant proportion of ASL users (because of the English speaking populations in those areas). LSQ is much more "independant" from ASL influence in other areas of Quebec, especially in Quebec City. Michel Marcotte 07 Oct 2005

I would like to confirm what Michel Marcotte said. LSQ is indeed its own language, and not a dialect of ASL or LSF. -Etoile 16:58, 19 September 2006 (UTC)

The article mentions "LSG" and "LSG-derived" sign languages, however it does NOT explain anywhere what LSG is? Is it the German Sign Language? I tried to find LSG on wikipedia, but with no avail. Please add this information! Thank you very much in advance. (talk) 15:16, 29 July 2009 (UTC)

Missing text[edit]

Could someone explain why we've lost a huge chunk of text? [1] -- Tarquin 08:28, 17 Apr 2004 (UTC)

It's because I moved the "History of Sign language" section to Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet because it was about him and not about the history of sign language. -- Cymydog Naakka 01:25, 9 May 2004 (UTC)

Article Too ASL-Focused[edit]

I think this article is really getting some good points out, specifically about the differentiation of the world's signed languages, but also contend that it is presently focused too strongly on ASL. Specifically, in the linguistics section, many of the concepts discussed are gleaned from research conducted on ASL users and can't be said to commute to other languages. I propose that the scale of this article be reduced significantly by divesting (if you will) its parts to articles on the languages that each refer to. For example, the Flemish signwriting system discussion should be moved to the article on Flemish Sign Language, the History of Sign Language article is unnecessary because each language has its own history, etc. All that should remain is a discussion of why there is more than one sign language in the world, followed by a list of the Ethnologue's known systems (languages). Thoughts? -- Imagineertobe 04:27, 5 September 2006 (UTC)

Almost all the external links are about ASL specifically and not about sign languages in the generic sense Roger (talk) 07:46, 20 March 2008 (UTC)
The fact is that more research has been devoted to ASL and FSL-derived sign languages in general. Even though, I don't share the view that the article is overly ASL-focussed or that the sign language typology underlying the research cited in the article is not valid for all sign languages. Eklir (talk) 22:26, 16 October 2008 (UTC)

Analogy to tone of voice?[edit]

"As an illustration, in English, one could make the sentence, 'I drove here.' To add information about the drive though, one would have to make a longer sentence or even add an additional sentence. Such as, 'I drove here and it was very pleasant.' Or, 'I drove here. It was a nice drive.'"

Couldn't vocal inflection indicate that the trip was pleasant? --Damian Yerrick 05:20, 26 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Not quite. You could say (in English) "I drove there" in a pleasant voice, but it wouldn't specifically mean the drive was pleasant. In sign languages the non-manual signals tend to have less ambiguous meaning, although they are somewhat similiar to tone. The example might not be too good either, as there's other things that can be expressed concurrently, ie, you could sign "I drove there" at the same time as indicating that it was a bumpy trip. The article should probably be updated to reflect this. --Pengo 07:34, 26 Oct 2004 (UTC)
But tone, as well as facial expression and body language, can change the meaning of a spoken sentence. It can definitely be more ambiguous than sign language, but meaning can still be conveyed in ways beyond merely the spoken words. Pnkrockr 20:14, 31 July 2006 (UTC)
I agree with both Mr. Yerrick and Pnkrockr. Information about whether or not you enjoyed an activity can easily be conveyed by tone of voice or, for example, lengthening a word to indicate it was "booooring". The example stands much better with just bumpy roads. 12:05, 31 July 2009 (EST) —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk)

International sign language[edit]

is there any sort of international sign language?

Not a really universal one, but to my knowledge, American Sign Language serves as a basis for many 'national' sign languages which would make them more or less mutually intelligible. mark 00:48, 22 Nov 2004 (UTC)
I'd have to disagree - in fact there is an international sign "language" variously known as Gestuno, International Sign Language (or just plain "international sign"), developed by the World Federatiopn of the Deaf to facilitate communication between deaf people from different linguistic backgrounds. It draws heavily on ASL and European sign languages, with an emphasis on signs that are strongly visually intuitive in meaning. It is a pidgin rather than a language, with more simplified grammar than true deaf sign languages, and is not used as the primary language of any deaf people.
I think we're talking about the same thing here. Thanks for the clarification! mark 03:42, 22 Dec 2004 (UTC)

I'd like to interject that the distinction "universal" not "international" is the one made by the unknowledgable. International means: "Extending across or transcending national boundaries" which some sign languages do. Universal means, in the context of deaf people: "Encompassing all of the members of a class or group" which sign languages do not do. Unknowledgable people believe sign language of any kind can be used and understood by any deaf person anywhere in the world. That's the view of sign language as "universal" not "International". Wouldn't you agree? I'm going to change "Contrary to popular belief sign language is not international" to "...universal". It's just that one reference in the second paragraph of the article. Let me know what you think. I'd be satisfied with a persuasive argument to the contrary. Ray Foster 23:30, 23 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Fair point. I fully agree. mark 01:04, 24 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Usually or always originated by deaf?[edit]

I previously edited a sentence that read that sign langugages are usually developed by deaf... I took out usually because sign languages have always been developed exclusively by deaf communities. Ds13 then reinserted the word usually citing baby sign, Makaton, and the sign language of American Indians as examples of sign languages being invented by hearing peolpe also. First I edited the section on American Indian signing to reflect that this was a case of a pidgin, and not a language so this example does not apply. As for Makaton, it is like Signed English which is simply a visual code for the English langauge and not a language in its own right. And lastly, baby sign which is just a collection of signed vocabulary used as a crutch until a baby has matured to the point that it can coordinate the many muscles in the vocal tract sufficiently enough to speak. Baby sign leads to many good things (babies that suffer less frustration and enjoy more cognitive stimulation) but it does not lead to sign language. Baby sign does not have its own syntax or grammar. This also is not a case of a sign language originating within a hearing population. Therefore, what is left is the natural sign languages which have all emerged from deaf communities. And so, I took usually out of the sentence since it is not usually the case, it is always the case. Qaz 08:44, 24 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Thanks for starting this discussion topic, Qaz. You raise good points, though while a pidgin is not a natural language (and not yet a Creole language), it's still a language (contact language). Anyways, Gallaudet University (arguably an authority on sign languages) divides sign languages into 3 categories (deaf sign languages, code systems, and alternative sign languages). Here's a good reference. As the reference says, "alternative sign languages are non-Deaf sign languages". It goes on to say that these alternative sign languages are developed and used primarily by some groups of hearing people for various special purposes when speaking is not possible or not permitted, though those languages may also be used by Deaf members of that particular group. Thus, I feel "usually" is a better word to use here than "always". Can we defer a semantics debate to the authority of Gallaudet? --Ds13 09:14, 2005 Feb 24 (UTC)

Historically, hearing people have often been misattributed as the originators of sign languages. That is the trap I was trying to keep this article from falling into. The problem I guess is with people using the word language to mean more than one thing. I was approaching it from a linguistics point of view since the article is about a language in the linguistics sense of the word. In everyday parlance, even things like mathematics and computer code are referred to as languages but from the linguistics perspective, to be deemed a language requires a fixed set of conditions be met. To me, a pidgin is not a language and calling it a contact language is just a way to describe its use and its reason for being after you have already established that it is not a full language.

All that being said, if you or others feel that the word usually really should be reinserted in this case and that we should use the more colloquial meaning of the word language in this article, I will yield the point. Qaz 17:59, 24 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Qaz, I share your concern and I wouldn't want to see any more people fall into that perception trap you describe, either. And I think we can avoid that without dismissing the non-Deaf sign languages. Let's just use two sentences and cover everything safely and accurately. Saying something like "all sign languages used by the Deaf have been developed by the Deaf" would seem to cover that concern. Following that, it could be said that "Non-Deaf sign languages also exist, some having been developed by hearing people with a desire or requirement for non-verbal communication (see list below..." or something along those lines. --Ds13 19:53, 2005 Feb 24 (UTC)

Changed headings[edit]

I redid the heading arrangement some. Mostly, I narrowed what fell under the 'linguistics of sign' heading. I also moved some content up or down in the article as it seemed appropriate. Qaz

List of sign languages[edit]

The longs lists at the end of the article were getting a bit ungainly so I moved them to their own article and put a link to them under the 'See also' heading. It reduces the number of headings and leads to a tighter TOC. Qaz

ASL in Mexico?[edit]

Can someone please back up this article's claim that ASL is used in Mexico?

I'll refute it if you like. See this article:
Maybe it's used up in the border regions, some crossborder influence, but by no stretch is it the dominant form of sign language. LSM is.
Just as there are bilingual Spanish & English speakers there are bilingual LSM & ASL signers in the border regions of both countries. Roger (talk) 06:47, 22 March 2008 (UTC)

At one time, a school in Ensenada, Baja California, called Rancho Sordo Mudo used signs drawn from ASL according to Spanish syntax. I think I heard that they are no longer doing this, but I don't know what they are doing instead. At any rate, it was never true ASL. AlbertBickford (talk) 05:13, 21 November 2010 (UTC)

Mutual Intelligibility[edit]

The start of this article states that different sign languages are more mutually understandable than different spoken languages. Under "Sign Languages' relationships with spoken languages" we read "On the whole, sign languages are independent of spoken languages and they follow their own developmental paths. For example, British Sign Language and American Sign Language are different and mutually unintelligible (other than iconic signs)..."

I think the introduction needs to be clarified - are all sign languages somewhat mutually intelligible beyond iconic signs? None? Or only some?

No they aren't. Many are completely unintelligible. However, iconic signs play a rather large roll in SLs.
Communicating with 'iconic signs' in sign languages is a bit like communicating with gesture in oral languages. It's very easy to say eat, sleep, I need to pee! etc. with gesture. In addition, because mime forms a much greater part of sign languages than it does oral languages, deaf people can usually communicate more effectively with gesture than hearing people can. If you imagine an oral culture that used a lot of realistic onomatopoeia, saying things like "I was driving vroom vroom to work, when a bee bzzzz flew in the window", you might expect that they could communicate very effectively through onomatopoeia with people who spoke an entirely different language. But this of course depends on culture. English and Chinese speakers will have more difficulty communicating through onomatopoeia that English and Spanish speakers, and likewise ASL and CSL speakers will likely have more difficulty communicating through mime than ASL and ISL speakers do.
Also, even most iconic signs are so conventionalized that they are opaque to speakers of languages that don't share them. kwami 00:10, 26 October 2005 (UTC)
The second paragraph is self contradictory. Sign languages either are or arn't mutually intelligible. Which is it? Roger (talk) 16:34, 31 January 2008 (UTC)

LSF and ASL are somewhat mutually intelligible; ASL and BSL are unintelligible.

Part of the problem here is that people often observe Deaf people from different languages being able to communicate well very quickly, much more quickly than two hearing people in the same situation, and take that as evidence that their languages are mutually-intelligible. That, however, is not a good test, because they are generally not using their native languages, but rather adjusting to each other--using highly-iconic vocabulary, lots of classifiers, signs that are generally known to be widely known (e.g. International Sign or Gestuno), rephrasing when something is not understood, etc. The situation is very different if you were to show them a video of the other language. Two Deaf people who can communicate with each other quite adequately may still have great difficulty understanding a video of the other person's language. And, of course, there are all sorts of gradations in between--mutual intellgibility is a gradiant scale and two languages can be more or less mutually-intelligible. In such cases, it is often hard to tell a language from a dialect, and in many cases the decision is made on other factors, such as identity. BTW, I'm a linguist myself and one of my specialties is sign languages, especially investigatin questions like this. As the article stands right now, the wording seems perfectly fine. AlbertBickford (talk) 05:20, 21 November 2010 (UTC)

Verbal communication[edit]

Why is this page categorized as nonverbal communication? 12:42, 19 August 2006 (UTC)

Because it's an unspoken language. --Kmsiever 15:20, 19 August 2006 (UTC)
From the NVC article: "Scholars in this field usually use a strict sense of the term "verbal", meaning "of or concerned with words," and do not use "verbal communication" as a synonym for oral or spoken communication. Thus, sign languages and writing are generally understood as forms of verbal communication, as both make use of words". ntennis

Manual communicators?[edit]

Is there a word that can be used to summarize the label "person who uses sign language to communicate"? e.g. "signer" or some similar colloquial construction.

I ask because, as the deafness article correctly points out, it can be difficult to be labeled using a minus qualifier, i.e. "unable to hear", and, well, "person who uses sign language to communicate" doesn't exactly roll off the tongue in an average conversation. Thanks!  freshofftheufoΓΛĿЌ  07:22, 8 September 2006 (UTC)

Yes, I would certainly use the word "signer" for someone who uses sign language. One's ability to sign has no relationship with one's hearing status, as there are certainly plenty of deaf people who do not sign, and plenty of hearing people who do sign. Therefore it is perfectly appropriate to have a colloquialism for "person who uses sign language" and "signer" is the most-accepted English-language term for this. -Etoile 17:05, 19 September 2006 (UTC)
OK, great, I'll take your word for it. Thanks!  freshofftheufoΓΛĿЌ  04:44, 20 September 2006 (UTC)


isn't sign language also for people suffering from aphasia ? the article only mentions deaf people in the beginning

Whether a person with aphasia would benefit from learning a sign language depends on the type of aphasia. If the aphasia only affected a person's ability to physically control the vocal apparatus, then it might help to learn to sign (although I suspect most people in that circumstance would just switch to writing). However, usually aphasia results from damage to the language centers in the brain, and this type of damage affects ability to learn and use a sign language just as much as it affects a spoken language. Some of the earliest research that established sign languages as real languages, in fact, was work that noted that signers with brain damage suffered the same types of aphasia as speakers, in other words, that the same areas of the brain were involved in both types of languages. AlbertBickford (talk) 07:45, 30 September 2012 (UTC)

Wikipedia in American Sign Language proposed[edit]

Please see meta:Requests for new languages/Wikipedia American Sign Language 2. Thank you.--Pharos 21:14, 9 March 2007 (UTC)

I have commented on this on the relevant page, but I'm all in favour of Wiki being converted into different sign languages, not only ASL, but BSL also. I'm not certain but are they the two most used sign languages in the world. I'm not sure whether ISL is used more than BSL though, but ultimately sign language is the prefered language of the majority of Deaf people and in some cases their only language.--NeilEvans 23:36, 9 March 2007 (UTC)
I sent an e-mail to Valerie Sutton, and she was very receptive to the idea of developing an ASL Wikipedia in SignWriting. She even said her group had grant money that it could use to develop articles.--Pharos 05:17, 10 March 2007 (UTC)
There is now the beginnings of an ASL Wikipedia on Wikimedia Labs: AlbertBickford (talk) 07:37, 30 September 2012 (UTC)

==Pix== The picture that is near the top of this article is a poor one for the topic because both hands of the interpreter are in a position such that they look like relaxed hands. If it were not for the article that the picture appeared in I would not even think the person was signing. Qaz 13:16, 17 April 2007 (UTC)

I added a picture of 2 interpreters, we can see their hand gestures clearly

LLoyd anderson?[edit]

If he hasn't published his work, why is there a reference to it in an encyclopedia? That sentence should go, or grow a citation.

left handed signing of letters[edit]

i figure this is the most likely place to get my question answered so please pardon me! JSL allows you to choose your dominant hand for signing, and i can only assume that ASL and others are the same, but when it comes to letters, i.e. images that cannot be mirrored is it proper to just ignore the fact that they will be drawn in a different area of space (e.g. ASL's sign for J will be written towards the outside instead of in) or should the signs be mirrored as all of the others are?

on that point, is it at all difficult to understand left handed signers, or does it perhaps slightly awkward, in the way left shooting golfers sometimes look (or is that just me?). thanks kindly! 19:25, 17 August 2007 (UTC)

While this is not a forum, I will answer your question with regard to British Sign Language. Firstly, a left-handed signer would use their left hand as the "pen" and their right hand as the "paper". Any action a right-handed signer would do is mirrored by a left-handed signer. With regard to the "J" from ASL, a right-handed signer would draw a "J" with their little finger following the shape of the letter "J", a left-handed signer would reverse this and from the signer's point of view, the "J" would be drawn in mirror image. Secondly, on the whole it is not difficult to understand left-handed signers, although to the majority of right-handed signers some signs would look "awkward" as they would be the mirror of the sign they would use. Hope this helps answer your question.--NeilEvans 20:23, 17 August 2007 (UTC)

thats great, thanks for the info. cheers! 08:55, 18 August 2007 (UTC)

Speech is not just linear[edit]

Oral language is linear. Only one sound can be made or received at a time.

This simplifies speech. For example, vowel articulation necessarily has formants. These are bands of acoustic energy that move through different frequencies simultaneously. One formant may be moving up while another is moving down. A listener must track at least two of these formants at once to distinguish all of the vowels of English (I'll follow up this post with some citations).

Formants are a separate sound from vocal fold vibration. You can demonstrate this to yourself by whispering a set of words, and then saying them normally. You can interpret the whispered set because the formants are there. Normal speech will add vocal fold vibration to the formants. Thus the "sound" of a spoken word incorporates multiple sounds happening at once: formants and vocal fold vibration.

Perhaps a more accurate distinction could be made between the nature of producing sign, versus that of speech? Both rely on tracking simultaneous, separable signals. 17:31, 5 November 2007 (UTC)/\/\/\/

Phonemically, morphologically, and syntactically linear, with the exception of suprasegmentals. Maybe you can come up with an easy way to capture this? kwami 19:18, 5 November 2007 (UTC)
Is sign language not phonemically, morphologically and syntactically linear as well? At any rate, I we need the assistance of a source(s) if we're going to make a claim one way or another. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Divespluto (talkcontribs) 09:41, 6 November 2007 (UTC)


Hi, I can't seem to find anything on the net regarding representing sign language in Unicode. (I see one proposal paper, but...) Anybody know about where this may be at? (whichever variety of written sign it is...) —Preceding unsigned comment added by Brettz9 (talkcontribs) 19:10, 19 November 2007 (UTC)

See SignWriting Roger (talk) 16:32, 31 January 2008 (UTC)
To be precise, Unicode does not encode languages, but writing systems. Since there are several writing systems used for sign languages, any of these is a candidate for encoding in Unicode. One of them, Stokoe notation, uses many symbols drawn from the Latin alphabet, so it would be relatively easy to implement in Unicode, although as yet no such proposal has been made.

Legal status[edit]

This article needs a section on the legal status of Sign Languages around the world. The example I know best is that of South Africa. South African Sign Language (SASL) is not an official language as such but is "officially recognised". There is an active lobby for SASL to get full official status. As I understand it govermnent departments and services are required to make "reasonable provision" for SASL in terms of various laws and regulations regarding services for persons with disabilities, but they are not compelled to do so except in a court of law when a signer is directly involved in the case. Roger (talk) 10:33, 8 February 2008 (UTC)

Military sign[edit]

I have not been able to find anything on Wikipedia about the sign "language" (I supose it is actually a code rather than a language) used by soldiers to communicate information and commands when silence is required. Roger (talk) 08:15, 20 March 2008 (UTC)

Sign Language(s) plural or singular?[edit]

I think the article title as well as most instances within the article should use the plural form "Sign Languages". Roger (talk) 09:25, 28 March 2008 (UTC)

Hmm. It's good you brought that up for discussion. On the one hand, we have an article for "Bantu languages" etc., not "Bantu language". One the other, we generally use the singular where possible, and it is very common to speak of "sign language" as a generic singular, whereas "sign languages" is less common. It seems to me that the difference would be that "sign language" would be an article about sign language as a medium of communication, just as the general language article is called "language", not "languages". A "sign languages" article would be about the various individual SLs, a subset of the "languages of the world". — kwami (talk) 17:54, 28 March 2008 (UTC)
I feel that "Sign Language" in the singular implies that one is speaking of a specific individual (though not necessarily named) language. When one is speaking of the collective "class" of sign languages one should use the plural form. One would never say "The xxxxxx tribe speaks Bantu language" whereas one could say "They speak a Bantu language" or "They speak Zulu, one of the Bantu languages".
This article is about the "class" Sign Languages - in this sense it is exactly analogous to the article "Bantu Languages". Using the singular form for the "class" just reinforces the commonly held erroneous belief that there is only one "Sign Language". The writers of the South African constitution made exactly this error when they gave "official recognition" to "sign language" instead of "South African Sign Language". Roger (talk) 20:22, 28 March 2008 (UTC)
Actually, it isn't analogous. Most of this article discusses sign, as a form of speech, not the distribution, characteristics, and relationships of individual sign languages. Examples are drawn from whichever language is convenient, with no attempt at being representative. Also, sign languages do not form a family unit the way Bantu languages do. Language doesn't imply there is only one language in the world, and writing doesn't imply there is only one alphabet. There is a List of language families#Sign languages sub-article, which does require the plural, and which should probably be merged here. — kwami (talk) 20:47, 28 March 2008 (UTC)

I love sign language because then the blind doesn't have to miss out on ANYTHING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:25, 22 May 2008 (UTC)

Animals that Use Sign Language[edit]

There should be a section that includes animals that use sign language as this page is about sign language. The title of the page does not mention "Humans", so there should be no reason to exclude any group that uses S.L. from this page. Jessicanr (talk) 05:01, 13 July 2008 (UTC)

  • I cleaned up the formatting and fixed errors (Koko is a gorilla, not a chimp). Still, I don't know whether this information should be a subsection in this article, or an article of its own. The information is clearly relevant, so one way or another it should be included in Wikipedia AND available from this page. Cbdorsett (talk) 10:08, 13 July 2008 (UTC)


Sorry, but there are a couple problems with the paragraph on cherology in the intro:

  • The term is obsolete, so it is not appropriate except as an historical aside. (Name one volume on cherology from the last quarter century.)
  • The term is not covered in the body, so it is not appropriate for the intro regardless of whether or not it is obsolete.

Personally, I think the brief mention of 'chereme' in the body is sufficient, but if you want to add cherology to that section, that would be okay. kwami (talk) 09:37, 20 August 2008 (UTC)

There is a separate entry for cherology which should solve the problem if there is one. Eklir (talk) 22:38, 16 October 2008 (UTC)

Edward Klima[edit]

I have just crated a (stub-class at best) new article about Edward Klima. I note that in the linguistics portion of this article is very little information on the history of the linguistic analysis of sign languages. Perhaps someone could take the sad opportunity of the Klima's death to improve this (also, it would be great if anyone wanted to improve the Klima article). Thanks. Bongomatic (talk) 13:34, 4 October 2008 (UTC)


This article makes some general statements about the grammar of sign language, but then it doesn't give any particulars. This either leaves the reader unenlightened as to the grammar of sign language or (as is the case with me) skeptical about the existence of a sign "grammar." What's the truth? Why isn't it in the article?

You have the wrong article. Read American Sign Language and American Sign Language grammar. There isn't just one sign language. Deaf people thoughout the world use different sign languages, just as hearing people speak different langauges. In answer to your question about "the truth" and your skepticism, there is indisputable evidence from a variety of linguists that American Sign Language (ASL) has a unique grammar. If it didn't, deaf people would never be able to communicate at the level of complexity that they do, which is equivalent to the complexities of spoken languages. The grammar and structure of ASL has been studied and written about in considerable detail in numerous books. Ward3001 (talk) 01:13, 20 January 2009 (UTC)

Masonic hand signs[edit]

I think it would be interesting if we had information (or maybe an article) on Masonic hand signs, which are already described elsewhere on the Internet, and which are rumored to have been used by various influential politicians. [2] ADM (talk) 06:10, 8 March 2009 (UTC)

It wouldn't belong here unless they constituted a system rich and complex enough to be called a language. To discuss this with me, please {{Ping}} me. --Thnidu (talk) 00:04, 29 January 2015 (UTC)

Classification and Wittmann[edit]

Is there any good reason why Henri Wittmann's name is not used directly in this section? He is referred to as "the author", but his name is mentioned only in the footnotes, which casual readers may not bother with. The writing would be simpler if it used his name.

Also, I have a problem with the following, unclear sentence, which occurs near the end of the Classification section:

'Creolization is seen as enriching overt morphology in "gesturally signed" languages, as compared to reducing overt morphology in "vocally signed" languages.'

I suspect that the phrases "gesturally signed" and "vocally signed" appear in quotes because their author is uncertain of their clarity. I for one do not understaqnd what is meant by these two phrases. Is it:

  1. signed vs spoken languages?
  2. sign languages arising from gesture (if any such exist) vs. sign languages arising from finger-spelling or mouthing (if any such exist)?
  3. something else entirely?

Further, the footnote to the sentence in question states that Wittmann explains this in such-and-such a way. This leaves the reader with the option of sourcing Wittmann in order to read the explanation in hopes of thereby explicating this article!

Ideally, the original authors of this section would emend it to remedy these faults. Otherwise, after a week or few, I may try my inexpert hand at it ... yoyo (talk) 10:27, 24 May 2009 (UTC)

History of Sign Language[edit]

The history of Sign Language in this article is really the history of American Sign Language. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:00, 10 June 2009 (UTC)

New Scientist - 20th February 2010 - European cave paintings from 25000 years ago have common symbols - many of which look like hand gestures. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:26, 28 February 2010 (UTC)

Rhyme analogue for sign language?[edit]

I recently learned that neuropsychological tests for aphasia include a "rhyming" subtest, and that adaptations of these tests for signers keep this subtest. However, it's not clear from this page what it means to "rhyme" in sign language. Perhaps someone could clarify?

Gregory Hickok, Tracy Love-Geffen, Edward S. Klima, Role of the left hemisphere in sign language comprehension, Brain and Language, Volume 82, Issue 2, August 2002, Pages 167-178, ISSN 0093-934X, DOI: 10.1016/S0093-934X(02)00013-5. (

Twttwt (talk) 16:38, 17 November 2009 (UTC)

I remember reading st about this. As I recall, it was st about keeping the same handshape, motion, or location--can't remember exactly. Not sure it was so much 'rhyme' as assonance or consonance. kwami (talk) 21:36, 17 November 2009 (UTC)

SignWriting is not pictographic[edit]

The article incorrectly states that SignWriting is pictographic. A pictogram is a specific type of ideogram. An ideogram is a graphic symbol that represents an idea or concept. The symbols of SignWriting are combined spatially on a 2 dimensional canvas to build a visual representation of an idea or concept. The symbols by themselves do not represent ideas or concepts; the symbols represent phonemes. SignWriting is a spatial graphemic writing system. -Steve 17:36, 18 November 2009 (UTC) —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk)

The relationship of the topic with one of Mudra[edit]

-- (talk) 02:12, 26 May 2010 (UTC)

Info about alien hand sign[edit]

-- (talk) 02:16, 26 May 2010 (UTC)

I see no relationship between this and sign language as a LANGUAGE. There is a tendency in this article for everything associated with primitive, non-speech communication (such as gestures) to be put forth as relevant. The article is about languages, not gestures or non-language communication. There is a very clear difference between the two. Trying to draw a relationship is similar to linking grunts to linguistics. (talk) 16:05, 18 August 2010 (UTC)

Copied from User_talk:Harryzilber#Sign_language to keep the discussion in one place and allow others to participate[edit]

First let me say I believe your reverts are done in good faith. And let me preface my comments by stating that there are some articles I never edit because I know just enough to misunderstand but not enough to know what I'm doing. Unfortunately, that kind of editing occurs too often on Wikipedia, and this article is a prime example. Now, to the issue at hand. If someone removed from "See also" equivalent links from the article English language, such terms such as grunt, moan, or giggle, it is almost certainly would not be challenged. That's because most people understand that English is a langauge, and these terms, though forms of communication, have little to do with the language. That often is not the case with sign language articles. There are a number of reasons for this. One is simply that many people fail to realize that sign languages are legitimate languages with their own syntax and grammar, as has been shown definitively by linguists. Thus the assumption (often done with the best of intentions but with little knowledge) is that any form of nonverbal communication (such as gestures) are relevant to sign languages. After all, the thinking goes, deaf people making pictures with their hands is about the same as you and me pointing and gesturing. A deeper, much more subtle reason has to do with misconceptions about deafness itself. "Deaf and dumb" is a term that sadly persists to this day. They can't hear, so they can't talk, so they don't have language, so they're dumb.

It is not the case that almost any term that has to do with nonverbal communication is relevant to this article. One utterly ridiculous example is "Braille". Braille is simply a method of transcribing a language. It is not "the language of the blind". "Chinese number gestures" or "gestures" are not any more relevant to sign language than "grunt" or "moan" would be to the English language article. I even considered removing animal language because attempts to teach animals American Sign Language have never been proven to actually be use of language by animals; but at least the concept is based on a language, unlike the other items that I removed. The bottom line is, to allow such irrelevant terms in sign language articles but remove them without question in articles pertaining to spoken languages makes that assumption (perhaps subconsciously) that these aren't real languages, or that they're not really like spoken languages.

I'm reverting one more time, with no intention to edit war and with no intended offense toward you. If you wish to have it changed, please provide unequivocal evidence on the artilce's talk page that such terms are as relevant to sign language as terms such as "moan" or "giggle" would be relevant to an article such as English language. Otherwise, please seek consensus on this (now) controversial issue. Thanks. Cresix (talk) 19:16, 20 August 2010 (UTC)

Cresix, while the editorial process you've just described is valid for the body of the article, the tight rules you've created are doing a disservice to the lay readers looking for ancillary forms of human and other communication. Specifically I don't believe you're in conformance to Wikipedia's editorial policy that I pointed to in my earlier edit summary: WP:Also, which states, amongst other things: "Links included in the "See also" section may be useful for readers seeking to read as much about a topic as possible, including subjects only peripherally related to the one in question." Nobody is claiming within the article body that gestures, braille, etc... are the equivalent of signed languages, but the section we're discussing here is meant to allow lay readers to broaden their scope of readings, including topics only tangentially related to the article, as discussed in the noted Wikipedia MOS layout guide. Its quite apparent that you'd like to improve the article's quality, which is commendable, however since signed languages, braille, gestures and body language are all forms of human communication, your stance is being counterproductive to the intent of the 'See also' section, which, again, is to allow lay readers to increase their overall scope of their knowledge, IMHO. Anyways, keep up your good work. Best: HarryZilber (talk) 20:08, 20 August 2010 (UTC)

Thanks for your comments. I understand your points (I believe), but I would have to disagree that I have created "tight rules", or at least no tighter than those that shape the articles on spoken langauges. What I think would be most convincing to me would be an explanation about the terms that would not be allowed in articles on spoken languages. I have examined a number of them, and I fail to see any such terms. "Braille" would apply equally well to many languages because there are Braille (or equivalents) for many languages; a notable exception would be there is no Braille equivalent for sign languages (that I know of), even though methods of transcribing sign languages have been developed. If I've missed something please let me know. BTW, some of the items that I removed I feel are more deserving of removal than others. If you think some are more important to include than others, I'm always open to discussion. Thanks for this discussion. Cresix (talk) 20:19, 20 August 2010 (UTC)

Here's an offer: the article on Spoken language now also includes more inclusive See also links to: Body language, Braille, Gestures and Sign language, etc... How about restoring some of them (your choice) to the Sign language article as well? I don't believe for an instant that they'll denigrate the article in the least, and will help show an open-minded spirit. Best: HarryZilber (talk) 21:01, 20 August 2010 (UTC) I restored Body language, Braille, and Gestures. The one that makes the least sense of those is Braille, but no need to split hairs. Thanks for the civil discussion. Cresix (talk) 21:33, 20 August 2010 (UTC)

Animals' use of LANGUAGE[edit]

Jessicanr (talk · contribs) has insisted on repeatedly adding statements that animals such as apes, horses, and dogs use language. Below are comments from her talk page for others to read and respond:

I mean no personal offense, but it is clear that you know little or nothing about the linguistics of sign language. Sign language, like any other language, consists of signs, grammatical rules, and syntax. It's not just a conglomeration of gestures that we call signs. Animals do NOT use language, regardless of what a source might say. To say that animals use sign language is equivalent to saying that if I learn 10 words in a foreign language that I can speak that language. Adding a source to something that is wrong does not mean that it should stay in the article. If I add a source to Moon stating that it is made of cheese, that doesn't mean it is correct and should remain in the article. Please familiarize yourself with the linguistics of sign language (start by reading every article related to American Sign Language) before adding outrageous information about animals using sign language. I have used American Sign Language for 30 years and I still don't consider myself fluent in it. I also have read the research on attempts to teach signs to animals (not grammar, not syntax, just SIGNS). To state that an animal that responds to a few signs is using language is absurd. If you can find two or three peer-reviewed articles in a journal on lingusitics claiming definitively that animals use language, I will stand corrected. Again, no personal offense, but reliable sources are necessary for editing, but alone they are not necessarily sufficient. I would never edit an article on nuclear physics just because I read an article on the internet about the topic; some articles require more than a source or two to edit properly; they require competence in the subject matter. Cresix (talk) 15:18, 11 November 2010 (UTC)

Do you know the first language babies can learn? sign language. They are not able to use proper grammar rules and syntax, but they are able to communicate using sign language. the same goes for gorillas and chimps. additionally humans use sign language to communicate with dogs and horses. i don't see what the problem is.-jessica

I'm not talking about babies. Of course babies can learn sign language; children of deaf adults do it every day. I'm talking about animals such as chimps and gorillas, who do not use language. Communication is not the same thing as language. Please read about language. Language is more than words or signs. For the third time: LANGUAGE HAS RULES. Gorillas, chimps, dogs, and horses DO NOT USE THE RULES OF LANGUAGE. At most they use or respond to words or signs. If I point to something that I want, I AM NOT USING LANGUAGE. I am using gestures. Stop edit warring on this matter because every linguist in the world disagrees with you. Cresix (talk) 16:15, 11 November 2010 (UTC)

harry wanted sources. i provided sources. the only other person that has commented on animals using sign language beside the both of you is someone who agrees this information is relevant and helped to provide information in that subject. so you're the only one that's disagreeing while three people are ok with the edits made. seems consensus is on my side. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Jessicanr (talkcontribs) 16:41, 11 November 2010 (UTC)

No, there is no consensus. Two people do not determine a consensus. Sourcing ALONE is not sufficient to add information. You need to provide evidence from experts in linguistics that animals use actual language, not just signs -- LANGUAGE, not signs -- LANGUAGE. Provide such sources here and we will have a basis for discussion. Short of that, you are simply wrong because animals such as apes, dogs, and horses do not use language. Cresix (talk) 17:05, 11 November 2010 (UTC)
Apes have been shown to be able to be taught to use language in a rudimentary fashion. See Great ape language. Powers T 18:16, 11 November 2010 (UTC)
(edit conflict)Cresix, calm down. I don't see anything objectionable in jessicanr's edits, provided her sources back up her statements. What is wrong with saying that animals utilize and recognize ASL gestures? It's akin to saying that I am able to utilize and recognize the ten Russian words I know, да? — Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɹ̠ˤʷɛ̃ɾ̃ˡi] 18:18, 11 November 2010 (UTC)

I'm calm, thank you. First a minor correction. When people communicate with ASL, they use signs; they don't use gestures any more than people who communicate with spoken language. ASL is a language, not a group of gestures.
The sentence "Sign language is also used by non-human animals such as gorillas and chimpanzees" is wrong. Jessicanr does not provide a source from a linguist or expert in sign language stating that gorillas or chimpanzees use sign LANGUAGE. There is a distinct difference between understanding or using a few signs and using the grammar and syntax of that language. I know a few words in Spanish. Does that make me a user of the Spanish LANGUAGE? Clearly, no. The sentence "Dogs and horses, as well as other animals, can recognize hand signals given to them by people. They can also use their body and facial expressions in order to communicate with other animals, including humans" is irrelevant to an article on LANGUAGE. It might be appropriate in an article on animals or communication, but not language. When my dog responds to "sit", that is not my dog understanding LANGUAGE. She is responding to the sound of the word. If I said to her, "Sit down after you eat", she would not have a clue what I meant because that involves the rules of LANGUAGE. In short, gorillas may use signs, but they don't use language; dogs and horses being able to respond to commands has nothing to do with this article and thus should be placed elsewhere. Cresix (talk) 18:45, 11 November 2010 (UTC)

Cresix is right. Great apes have been taught to use the signs of ASL, but they haven't learned how to use ASL as a language. The signs of a sign language are equivalent to words (or morphemes), but using a language consists of a lot more than just knowing some of its words. Great apes cannot learn the grammar of sign language, nor can they say much more with the signs they've learned than requesting food, hugs, and play. Bertrand Russell said, "A dog cannot relate his autobiography; however eloquently he may bark, he cannot tell you that his parents were honest but poor", and the same is true of apes who have learned signs. —Angr (talk) 19:13, 11 November 2010 (UTC)
As I noted above, there's some debate about this. Obviously non-human primates do not use language fluently, but there are strong signs that their usage goes well beyond simple symbolic use and edges into real language, however rudimentary. Powers T 19:44, 11 November 2010 (UTC)
Angr, Micihael the gorrilla used sign alngauge to tell the story of how his parents were killed by poachers. This is more than asking for food, hugs and play. video: —Preceding unsigned comment added by Jessicanr (talkcontribs) 00:34, 12 November 2010 (UTC)
That is a claim of the trainers of the gorilla. What we don't see in the video is how much coaching this gorilla had prior to the video. Furthermore, if you showed that video to a group of people who are fluent in ASL, most of them would have very little idea what was being communicated if they knew nothing in advance about what happened. The most you see in the video is a gorilla mimicking a few signs (and not doing it very well in some cases). Give me a video of a gorilla using full, grammatically correct, ASL sentences of more than a few signs, and most importantly, unique sentences that the gorilla has never seen, and you may have something to discuss. I can quickly learn to say the words "man, kill, mother" in a foreign language if I've heard them a few times. What I can't do is quickly learn to say, "12 poachers invaded my camp and shot my mother with a gun and ran over my father with a jeep; it made me very sad for a long time"; and neither can a gorilla sign such concepts with proper syntax if the gorilla has never seen that combination of signs before. I've seen no evidence other than the biased opinions of the trainers of these animals that the animals use language. Anyone can claim his animal uses language, but proving it to the satisfaction of a language expert is an entirely different matter. Cresix (talk) 05:35, 12 November 2010 (UTC)
A brief mention and a link to Animal language is sufficient - a detailed discussion of gorillas using signs is excessive in this article. Roger (talk) 20:38, 11 November 2010 (UTC)
That's probably the best choice. Obviously, non-human animals are using and responding to gestures and speech actions, though their capacity with turning this usage to Language with a capital L is less apparent and in need of proper caveats. — Ƶ§œš¹ [aɪm ˈfɹ̠ˤʷɛ̃ɾ̃ˡi] 21:34, 11 November 2010 (UTC)
The title of this page isn't "Humans Communicating with Humans Sign Language". It's "Sign Language". Therefore all facets of sign language should be discussed. This includes using ASL to communicate with dogs, dolphins, horses and human babies.Jessicanr (talk) 05:09, 12 November 2010 (UTC)
There is debate among those who trained the apes (hardly considered unbiased) and those who question whether the apes are using language. I have never seen any evidence from linguists to indicate that apes use language. In fact, those who have claimed to teach apes to use sign language have been criticized for overstating the idea that the apes have done more than use a few signs to express themselves. To state that apes use sign language seriously denigrates a sign language's status as a language. Apes may be better at gesturing to communicate their needs than dogs or horses, but that's a far cry from using actual language. The bottom line here: where is the lingustic evidence that apes are using language beyond the use of a few signs? Provide that here, and we will have a basis for discussion. Otherwise it's simply opinion. In any event, there is enough disagreement, both here and among outside sources, that we don't need to be stating so unequivocally in the article that apes are using sign language. They use signs; we need more evidence to state that they use language. And the rubbish about dogs and horses responding to gestures clearly does not belong in an article on sign language or any other language. Cresix (talk) 20:48, 11 November 2010 (UTC)
If you think that "denigrates a sign language's status as a language", no wonder you're so adamantly against it. It does nothing of the sort, any more than saying that some birds can speak English denigrates English's status as a language. Powers T 21:22, 11 November 2010 (UTC)
And, in fact, stating that some birds speak English does denigrate English (or any other language). If I told you in seriousness that your use of English is worse than a parrot's, would you consider that a compliment? It's not just sign langauge I'm talking about. It's language in general. Birds mimic English words; they do not use language. But most people know that birds are not really using language. Most naive readers who know nothing about sign language do not know that apes are not actually using the language used by deaf people. It's a matter of degree. Both examples denigrate a language; the apes example does more so because of greater ignorance about sign languages than spoken languages. If by adamant you mean "emotional", no, you're wrong. This is an issue of accuracy amidst a sea of ignorance. One can be adamant (as in firm) and still be correct. I have requested something very factual that has no emotional overtones: reliably sourced statements from linguists that apes use language. That's a very reasonable request. Anyone can opine that apes use language; that doesn't make it accurate. Cresix (talk) 22:26, 11 November 2010 (UTC)
It is very difficult to communicate if you're going to ascribe meaning to my words that they don't have. Why would you think I meant "emotional" when I said "adamantly"? Powers T 23:51, 11 November 2010 (UTC)
Sorry if I ascribed a meaning inappropriately. I suppose I felt that you were challenging my objectivity because I was so adamant; but I seem to have jumped to an erroneous conclusions and I stand corrected and again apologize. That being said, I continue to disagree with your statement that attributing language skills to apes who use signs does not denigrate sign language, and I still am requesting (from anyone, not just you) reliably sourced information from linguists that apes use language. Thanks for your comment; sorry I misconstrued. Cresix (talk) 00:38, 12 November 2010 (UTC)
I think the ignorance lies in not knowing the linguistic definition of language (that it require grammar, syntax etc) Jessicanr (talk) 01:28, 14 November 2010 (UTC)

On my talk page you agreed that babies used sign language even though they didn't have grammar and syntax. So why do you say babies use sign language, but other animals, whose sign language is equal to or beyond that of a baby is discounted? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:00, 12 November 2010 (UTC)

I assume you are Jessicanr; you are not signed in. You have misstated what I wrote. I said babies can learn sign language, just as babies can learn spoken language (part of your confusion may be the definition of babies). Children learn language. They don't immediately learn the rules of grammar and syntax; they begin by learning words (or signs) and progress to learning grammar and syntax. It is incorrect to state that a baby who has a vocabulary of two words is using language, just as it is incorrect to say that animals who understand a few signs are using language. They are using a few elements of the language (words, signs), but not the actual language. I can utter and understand a few of those elements of Spanish, but I can't speak or understand the Spanish language. The difference between human children and apes, dogs, and horses is that human children eventually learn actual language, not just individual words or signs. Apes, dogs, and horses do not. And so far, no one here has provided a reliable source from a linguist stating that they do. Cresix (talk) 05:19, 12 November 2010 (UTC)
You know, I actually agree with this reversion. The changes Jessicanr made were overstated and not particularly relevant. Phrased slightly differently, there may be some room for mentioning that gestures can be used to communicate without being a real sign language -- and even that gestures can be used as a visual transcription of a spoken language without being a real sign language. But that's not what Jessicanr's edits said. Powers T 12:15, 12 November 2010 (UTC)
Cresix, let's say you only know a few words in Spanish. if you say "hola" and someone asks you "what language is that", what would be your response? Jessicanr (talk) 01:28, 14 November 2010 (UTC)
I would say it's a word, not a language. Cresix (talk) 02:56, 14 November 2010 (UTC)
If you were fluent in Spanish and the same scenario was carried out. Would your answer be different?Jessicanr (talk) 07:25, 14 November 2010 (UTC)
My answer would be the same; "hola" is a word from a language; a word is not a language. Now if I had a conversation in Spanish for about ten minutes, the response would be, "I was speaking in Spanish". Cresix (talk) 18:10, 14 November 2010 (UTC)
I agree that there is no credible research that shows non-human primates being able to use grammar and syntax via sign language. I think the disagreement/my lack of understanding lied in what linguists define as being a language, which even among linguists is disputed...For example, I would have considered home signs to be a language, whereas you would not. I also would consider 18 month old humans to use language, even though they have not grasped grammar.Jessicanr (talk) 01:28, 14 November 2010 (UTC)
Every credible linguist defines language as including grammar and syntax, not just words or signs. That is not disputed among linguists. Cresix (talk) 02:56, 14 November 2010 (UTC)
Cresix, to say that non-human animals never learn actual language is not correct. This article, published in Oxford Journals, looks at research done on Non-human primates, showing their flaws, their evolution, and the eventual acquiring of language in NHP. "Because Kanzi's mode of acquisition was very different from that of other linguistically tutored animals, his linguistic output was dramatically changed as well. Analysis of his utterance corpus revealed a basic comprehension of syntactical ordering rules as well as a comprehension of grammatical classes (Greenfield and Savage-Rumbaugh (1991)). But more than this, his understanding encompassed all manner of novel events and even of metaphor. His understanding of language informed his interpretation of real world events and his broadened capacity to interpret and appropriately classify real world events informed his linguistic comprehension in a boot strapping effect. An example of this was the ease with which Kanzi learned to flake stone tools given a modicum of both visual and verbal instruction. Similar attempts by other apes required long and arduous conditioning and shaping regimens (Toth et al., 1993). <snip> Like Kanzi, Panbanisha and Panzee experienced a social environment within which keyboard usage was a daily affair by human caretakers. Because Kanzi was already lexically competent, the keyboard, which had begun with only 1 lexigram in his case, had grown to a board of 256 symbols. Thus the keyboard could not grow with Panbanisha and Panzee, as it did with Kanzi. If Kanzi was to be a part of their linguistic world, his 256 symbols had to be present as well. Consequently, Panbanisha and Panzee were exposed to 256 lexigrams utilized in complex communications from the first week of life. Perhaps for this reason, their acquisition of these symbols was much more rapid than Kanzi's. Similarly, their combinations appeared far earlier and Panbanisha composed more complex utterances of greater duration than Kanzi, although Panzee did not. Nonetheless, Panzee, though delayed relative to Panbanisha, followed essentially the same developmental trajectory (Brakke and Savage-Rumbaugh, 1995, 1996). She acquired the lexigram-words without any specific training and began to produce novel ordered combinations at about the same age as Kanzi and Panbanisha (Greenfield, Lyn, and Savage-Rumbaugh, in press). Like Kanzi, she also developed the capacity to understand and properly respond to spoken English words and sentences. She is not as accurate in her comprehension of completely novel sentences as are Kanzi and Panbanisha, nor does she recognize as many individual spoken words. She also has a greater degree of difficulty in differentiating words that sound similar, such as bowl and ball. Nonetheless, in mapping onto all the major capacities that were observed in Kanzi, but previously absent in Lana, Sherman and Austin, Panzee clearly demonstrated that Kanzi's skill was not limited to bonobos. Instead, it was a function of his early exposure to the bicultural social environment. The process by which Kanzi, Panbanisha and Panzee acquired their lexicons include components of rapid mapping of sound to referent, similar to those utilized by human children (Lyn and Savage-Rumabugh, 2000; Lyn et al., 1998). In addition, it has been found that no interaction with the ape itself is required, it is sufficient to speak to other individuals about a novel object in front of the ape. New words are learned and understood even when the apes appear to be disinterested in the conversation (Lyn and Savage-Rumabugh, in press; Lyn et al., 1998). The cognitive and social processes that were found in Kanzi's proto grammatical utterances also characterized those of Panbanisha and Panzee, suggesting that there exist, within the genus Pan, basic cognitive processes that permit language acquisition in a human culture (Greenfield et al., in press). " And in another second article: "The research team led by Dr. Savage-Rumbaugh regrouped the obtained data into three groups in order to see whether the subjects comprehended reversal of word order: (A) verb plus word order changes, and appropriate response differs (e.g. "Could you take the pine needles outdoors?"/"Go outdoors and get the pine needles"), (B) word order remains constant, but appropriate response differs ("Take the rock outdoors"/"Go get the rock that's outdoors") and (C) word order changes, and appropriate response changes ("Put the juice in the egg"/"Put the egg in the juice") (o.c. 92). Results are listed in table 8, indicating that these sentences were a difficult challenge to both, and that Kanzi performed significantly better than Alia, who tended to return from various locations with more than one object. It is important to note that real inversion errors were scarce: semantic errors predominated (e.g. putting the melon in the water when requested to "put the melon in the tomatoes", o.c. 96). Indeed, both subjects' overall performance indicates that they were "sensitive to word order as well as to the semantic and syntactic cues that signaled when to ignore word order [e.g. "Go get the carrot that's outdoors"] and when to attend to it [e.g. "Make the doggie bite the snake"]" (o.c. 97). In conclusion, it should be clear by now that both Kanzi and Alia were able to understand the semantics and the syntactic structure of unusual English sentences, even though neither of them was as yet a fluent speaker. The lack of contingent reward, the novel nature of the requests, the absence of previous training to perform these specific requests, and the unique nature of each trial countermand simple explanations that depend on the conditioning of responses independently of semantic and syntactic comprehension. Both subjects clearly demonstrated a capacity to process the semantic and syntactic information in the sentences presented to them. Moreover, the manner in which they did so revealed that they did not interpret the words contained in sentences as randomly juxtaposed events, to be acted on independently. Instead, they invariably attempted to carry out a complex set of related actions that reflected their interpretation of the semantic and syntactic features of each novel utterance. Thus, for example, Kanzi’s solution to "Put the water on the carrot" was to toss it out into the rain. Such innovative actions revealed a sophisticated processing of the speaker’s intent (in this case, to get the carrot wet) rather than a rote, unthinking solution. Even when the subjects failed, they virtually never did so in a way that would suggest that they were assigning key words randomly. (o.c. 98-99) In addition, it should be noted that this study was carried out with an amazing sense for detail and precision, as shown in the elaborate coding system applied by various coders, the statistical analyses applied to the data at various stages, the recurrent methodological reflections, and the very detailed information provided in the appendix (o.c. 111-210)." The article also explains bonobo's ability to use grammar, though not via sign language.Jessicanr (talk) 01:28, 14 November 2010 (UTC)
See my response below. Cresix (talk) 02:27, 14 November 2010 (UTC)

[indent] I, like Cresix, have been signing for thirty years. I studied ASL and Deaf culture in America in college, worked as a Sign Language interpreter for over 15 years, and worked with Deaf clients in the mental health field. Unlike Cresix, however, I say that I'm a fluent signer and even an expert, because with all that experience, I'm somewhat certain that's what I am. I'm also certain that Cresix has a similar resume, making him--not Jessicanr and not even LtPowers--an expert. He, unlike others who have participated in this discussion, knows what he's talking about. He has other experts to back up his positions about this topic, unlike Jessicanr, who insists upon continuing an edit war in spite of opposing evidence. This article is about human languages, so discussion about how animals use language does not belong here; it belongs elsewhere. So I agree with Cresix; nothing about chimps using signs should be here. Christine (talk) 17:02, 12 November 2010 (UTC)

The article is about sign language, no matter who uses it. We should talk about how babies and primates can be taught rudimentary aspects of sign language for communication purposes, and we can do so without claiming that they are fluent users of the language. Powers T 21:16, 12 November 2010 (UTC)
Powers, I don't fully agree, but for the sake of consensus I can accept a very brief comment similar to the one you used above ("gestures can be used to communicate without being a real sign language") and links to related pages. Any more than that is overstating it, and we must assume that readers don't know the difference between signs and gestures, or between use of a few signs and use of sign language. I won't insist, but I personally think the word "language" doesn't even need to be included in such a statement except in the context that the gestures are not language. Cresix (talk) 22:03, 12 November 2010 (UTC)
Even though using signs is not a language, there are two sections in this article which discuss the use of signs by humans ("Use of signs in hearing communities"and "home signs"). The fact that non-human animals use/recognize signs from sign language is equally justified in being in this article. Jessicanr (talk) 01:28, 14 November 2010 (UTC)
Christine, Cresix never presented sources from peer-reviewed linguistic journals showing how NHP do not use language, nor did they link me to a peer-reviewed linguistic journal explaining the definition of language, nor did they provide me evidence of how research into NHP use of signs was flawed. I believed that it was general knowledge that nhps could use sign language, which obviously was wrong. Jessicanr (talk) 01:28, 14 November 2010 (UTC)
Nor have you, Jessicanr, provided evidence from linguists that non-human primates use language. The first article you cite above is written by biologists, not linguists. The second article is self-published (not in a peer-reviewed journal) by people who are a part of the "NHPs and Language project"; they have a biased interest in promoting their so-called "research", but the information they provide in your link is not peer-reviewed, which is essential for unbiased scientific evidence. As for how all the previous research in language among non-humans is flawed, here is a more recent review of the research that was published in peer-reviewed journals by linguists:
  • Givón, T.; Rumbaugh, Sue Savage. (2009). Can apes learn grammar? Crosslinguistic approaches to the psychology of language.: "With 'grammar' understood here is the sense used by adaptive-functional linguists—the communicative use of grammatical morphology and syntactic constructions. Our results, as of now, tend to point to a rather pessimistic view of whether it is meaningful to talk about grammar in apes (bonobos) at the comprehension level. The adaptive pressure, communicative goals, and cognitive prerequisites for grammar, are altogether missing in both natural and human-induced ape communication."
As for your challenge to produce evidence "showing how NHP do not use language", the scientific method never attempts to prove a negative ("NHP do not use language") because a negative is ultimately unprovable in science (there can always be unknown exceptions to the negative). Rather, the scientific method puts forth a positive hypothesis ("NHP use language") and attempts to provide evidence for it. Using the scientific method, the burden of proof here is that "apes use language" rather than "apes do not use language". Cresix (talk) 02:27, 14 November 2010 (UTC)
Cool. Do you have a link so I can read it all? Also, if you can give me the links to some peer-reviewed linguistic journals whose articles I can read online for free, I'd much appreciate it.Jessicanr (talk) 07:25, 14 November 2010 (UTC)
(Please don't place your comments in the middle of mine; it's confusing; I moved it.) I have access to some print journal articles. Online access requires a subscription. Cresix (talk) 18:10, 14 November 2010 (UTC)
One could show the methods used in the research was flawed, which would then discredit any research proving NHPs use language, thus having the evidence be on the side of no NHP language use. It seems to me like the research you have posted here (though i would like to read it all) would prove that NHPs do not use "the communicative use of grammatical morphology and syntactic constructions." To me, that is evidence of a negative.Jessicanr (talk) 07:25, 14 November 2010 (UTC)
It is a statement that current research fails to confirm the hypothesis "NHP use language". That's the way it's done in science. It's simply a statement that the positive hypothesis "NHP use language" has not been demonstrated. It is impossible to prove "NHP do not use language" because no one can predict the future, including whether future NHP might use language some day. But for now, the evidence is overwhelming that NHP do not use langauge. All of this is Scientific Method 101. Cresix (talk) 18:10, 14 November 2010 (UTC)

This discussion has died down, but it is worth offering the following reference for those who might be reading it now. Stephen Anderson has a book out on the subject: Doctor Dolittle's Delusion: Animals and the Uniqueness of Human Language (Yale University Press, 2006). Granted, this is not peer-reviewed material, being a popular book, but it is written by an eminent and highly-respected linguist, and my impression (as a linguist myself, in interacting with other linguists) is that his view represents the consensus of opinion on the subject among linguists. AlbertBickford (talk) 19:25, 6 February 2013 (UTC)

Photos of Interpreters vs. Deaf people[edit]

The opening photo in the article shows two sign language interpreters in action, with no Deaf people shown. This is rather odd, that the primary users of sign languages are not featured? I know my Deaf friends are often bothered by the attention paid to interpreters (especially by naive hearing people), while the Deaf people continue to be avoided and ignored. (E.g., after an interpreted church service.) This seems paternalistic: highlighting what hearing people do to help Deaf people rather than what Deaf people do themselves. Does anyone have a picture of two Deaf people talking to each other naturally that could be used instead? Then the photo of the interpreters could be moved to a new section that deals with SL interpretation. (There's a section on VRI/VRS, but not on ordinary interpreting.) Having a photo of Deaf people on top would reinforce one of the main points of the article, that sign languages are natural languages created by Deaf people to communicate with each other. They are not there just so Deaf people can understand what hearing people are saying. AlbertBickford (talk) 06:31, 21 November 2010 (UTC)

You're correct, of course, so I was WP:BOLD and went ahead and replaced it with a more appropriate image. I don't think the image of the interpreters belonged anywhere else in this article, though (perhaps in an article about Sign Language interpreting). You're also right about this article not having a section about SL interpreting; that's something that should be developed. Christine (talk) 13:45, 21 November 2010 (UTC)
Very appropriate change. I enlarged the image a bit; it was fuzzy at that size. Cresix (talk) 17:20, 21 November 2010 (UTC)
There's further discussion of this photo in some later posts (below), and those posts also talk about my having added a section on interpreting. AlbertBickford (talk) 18:55, 6 February 2013 (UTC)

"Oral language" vs. "Spoken language"[edit]

I notice that throughout the article and on this talk page the term used for languages that are not sign languages is "oral language". Although I do see that sometimes in the linguistic literature, the more common term is "spoken language", in my experience. Has there been a carefully considered decision to use "oral language" instead of "spoken language"? If so, I'd be interested in the reasons. If not, would anyone object to changing the article to use "spoken languages" instead? AlbertBickford (talk) 05:46, 21 November 2010 (UTC)

I disagree that "spoken" is used more frequently in the literature. "Oral" is the term most often used in the Deaf community and literature on sign language. I've seen both, but more often it's "oral". "Spoken" isn't inaccurate, of course, but "oral" is preferred. Cresix (talk) 17:20, 21 November 2010 (UTC)
It looks like we may be talking about different bodies of literature. Let me cite a few major linguistic books that use "spoken languages" rather than "oral languages"; I'd be interested to know which books/articles you are referring to.
* Klima, Edward and Ursula Bellugi 1979. The Signs of Language. Cambridge, Harvard University Press.
* Sandler, Wendy and Diane Lillo-Martin 2006. Sign Language and Linguistic Universals. Cambridge University Press.
* Sutton-Spence, Rachel and Bencie Woll 1999. The Linguistics of British Sign Language. Cambridge University Press.
* Battison, Robbin 2003. Lexical Borrowing in American Sign Language. Burtonsville MD: Linstock Press. (new edition of Battison's 1974 dissertation)
* Liddell, Scott K. 2003. Grammar, Gesture, and Meaning in American Sign Language. Cambridge University Press.
* Lucas, Ceil ed. 2001. The Sociolinguistics of Sign Languages. Cambridge University Press.
These are all highly-respected linguists and linguistic publications, and represent the consensus of usage within the field. In my survey of such books, I found only one usage of "oral", when talking about the "oral-aural" modality in contrast to the "manual-gestural" modality of sign languages. The normal usage within the field of linguistics is "spoken language(s)". So, I'm assuming that you must be talking about usage in some other field, and I would like to see documentation of that usage. AlbertBickford (talk) 17:46, 4 December 2010 (UTC)

I just stumbled across another use of "oral" in contrast to "signed", in David Perlmutter's essay "No Nearer the Soul" which appeared in Natural Language and Linguistic Theory (a professional linguistics journal) in 1986. He's a respected authority on sign languages, so one might use this as an argument in favor of retaining "oral" in this article. Note, however, that he has changed his usage since then, as evidenced in a pamphlet he wrote for the Linguistic Society of America (What is Sign Language?, toward the end of the article), and in a resolution passed by the LSA (Sign Languages). Thus, the preponderance of evidence is clearly in favor of "spoken languages" rather than "oral languages" by linguists, and as yet there has been no evidence offered as to any other usage by other groups of speakers. I've let this set for a couple years to see if any would materialize, and none has. Therefore, I intend soon to be bold and make the switch in the article; we'll see if that prompts any further discussion of the matter. AlbertBickford (talk) 19:09, 24 September 2012 (UTC)

I've made the change as promised. Any further discussion? AlbertBickford (talk) 22:41, 28 September 2012 (UTC)
Since sign languages are spoken, it is counter-intuitive to exclude them from spoken languages. "Oral" is unambiguous. — kwami (talk) 05:54, 14 March 2013 (UTC)
The problem here is that language use doesn't always "make sense" that way. Usage of one word isn't necessarily consistent with usage of other words. An important discipline that linguists follow is to document how a word is actually used, not how one thinks it should be used based on comparison to other words. In this particular case, "spoken language" has become a technical term used by linguists (as I have documented above) that does not include sign languages. Granted, it is common in ordinary non-technical English to use "speak" (and "speakers") with sign languages, e.g. to say that someone "speaks" a sign language. However, linguists generally avoid this usage, especially when (as in this case) comparing the two classes of languages; they tend to reserve "to speak" for spoken languages, and use "to sign" with sign languages. In other words, the ambiguity in the usage of "speak" doesn't carry over to the term "spoken language", which as far as I know never includes sign languages. My point, then, is that "oral language" is not generally used in the linguistic literature, and a WP article on sign languages that aims to present information from a linguistic perspective should follow the usage established by linguists. There is another problem, too, with "oral", in that for some people it calls up the spectre of "oral" education. Thus, using the term "oral languages" can introduce overtones of oppressive educational practices, which may contribute to a non-neutral point of view. I suspect that is one reason linguists have shifted away from use of that term in the past twenty years. AlbertBickford (talk) 14:36, 14 March 2013 (UTC)
But we also have an interest in not confusing our readers with contradictory usage. What about "vocal" language? — kwami (talk) 17:39, 14 March 2013 (UTC)
Avoiding confusion is, of course, a concern. There are different ways to do that. The best way, I feel, is to use terms that people are going to see in most other places, and particularly in authoritative sources, if they read further about the subject. Granted, doing that isn't always simple. When different people use terms in different ways, then it helps to mention the differences. When a technical usage is not obvious to readers unfamiliar with the topic, then it helps to explain the terms. Both of those factors are entering in here. So, how about adding a sentence such as the following to the end of the first paragraph: "They share many similarities with spoken languages (sometimes called "oral languages", which depend primarily on sound), which is why linguists consider both to be natural languages, but there are also some significant differences between the two modalities." (Perhaps, also, a wikilink from "modalities" to Modality_(semiotics).) Then, later in the article we could explain that although people sometimes say that one can "speak" a sign language, that usage does not carry over to the terms "spoken language" or "speech", neither of which include sign languages. AlbertBickford (talk) 18:13, 14 March 2013 (UTC)
Clarity is not about we editors voting on what the "best" term is, it's about recognizing and using the ones the experts use, irrespective of our opinions about them.
>What about "vocal" language?
Kwami, it's clear that your goal is to be as clear as possible for the user reading the article, especially the uninitiated, and that is highly commendable. But as AlbertBickford has been explaining, language doesn't always follow logic, and more importantly, we as WP editors don't get to "vote on" the most logical way to express some idea; we should follow usage of the literature in the field even if their word choice seems infelicitous to us and our way seems patently better based on some logical principle. For one thing, that would be original research, which is a core no-no of Wikipedia, and secondly, in the end it would make things less clear to the user, because the uninitiated, having happily learned and digested our "new, improved" term, now goes to the literature to deepen his understanding, and becomes completely flummoxed because none of the words he learned matches up with what he sees there. So in the end, we confuse and thereby fail them, by teaching them our "better" terms.
Thank goodness the astronomers settled on Black hole and not gravitationally completely collapsed object (an actual early suggestion) but had they not, there would be no point for WP editors to vote on, and use the pithier, shorter, "better" term if all the cosmologists called it something else.
So the question to promote clarity for the user ultimately is not, "Isn't this dynamite term I just read/saw/invented more logical than the inferior ones currently in the article?", but, "Have we made sure to use the same key terms for sign language topics in the same ways that the linguists do?"
Hope that helps, and keep on thinking about the user as you are now, that's the right track. (Aside to AB: I have 1/2 the books on your list, and they bring back many happy memories.) Mathglot (talk) 05:49, 18 June 2013 (UTC)

BSL and Australian Sign Language[edit]

As a beginning student of BSL I have been told by our Deaf teacher that BSL and Australian Sign Language are very similar and mutually intelligible. She also said that New Zealand Sign Language was pretty close to BSL, too. (talk) 23:00, 22 February 2011 (UTC)John Clifford

Having read the Wikipedia article on British Sign Language, I definitely think that someone could use the clarification there to improve the statement in this article. Recent news clips from Australia and New Zealand on British TV (Australian election and Christchurch earthquake) included the live interpreter for the speakers and both seemed to me (as a beginning learner) to be close to BSL. John Clifford —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:03, 29 March 2011 (UTC)

They are indeed very close. Linguists such as Adam Schembri and Trevor Johnson sometimes refer to the cluster of British, Australian and New Zealand sign languages as one language, although recognizing that in popular usage most people prefer to think of them as distinct. Johnson, who is a member of a large Deaf family in Australia, once told me that he examined the BSL dictionary when it was published and every sign in it was one that he was familiar with, in use someplace in Australia (although not necessarily the most common or "standard" sign). The current text of the article says that American, British, and Australian sign languages are very different, but this is only true as regards American vs. the other two. I'm going to fix that. AlbertBickford (talk) 12:56, 30 April 2011 (UTC)


Hi everybody,

I'm spending some time extending the speech_generating_device and Augmentative_and_alternative_communication articles, and could do with a bit of wisdom from you guys.

There are some things about sign language in Augmentative_and_alternative_communication and I could do with someone having a look over them to see how accurately they are reflected. I personally think that the unaided AAC section should be split into a subsection for the deaf communities (effectively as a main article link to this one) and a subsection for people with other disabilities - but I'm really intersted in canvasing for opinion on this.

Thanks Failedwizard (talk) 16:41, 18 March 2011 (UTC)

I would suggest making the same request at Talk:Deaf culture, Talk:American Sign Language, and talk pages for other specific sign languages. You'll get responses from a broader range of people with interests in deafness and sign language. Cresix (talk) 16:48, 18 March 2011 (UTC)
To catch the "other disabilities" post to Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Disability. Roger (talk) 18:27, 18 March 2011 (UTC)

Picture at the top of the article[edit]

(This section also includes some side discussion about interpreters and telecommunications and the sections about them.) AlbertBickford (talk) 18:51, 6 February 2013 (UTC)

This picture is blurry and not carefully taken. If it has any merit in regards to sign language, it should be put in the section that it elucidates, otherwise it should be removed. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:23, 21 May 2011 (UTC)

If you mean the picture about two men and a woman (all three in their 20s) signing in a kitchen, then it was added a while back to replace one that featured two interpreters. The current picture is definitely an improvement; see the earlier discussion for the reasons for the change Talk:Sign_language#Photos_of_Interpreters_vs._Deaf_people. (I'm not the one who supplied the picture, only the one who pointed out the problem with the old one.) I don't understand the criticism of the current picture. The blurriness is due to rapid motion, something that is difficult to avoid in indoor photography (due to low light). I'd say the blurriness actually adds to the value of the picture because it portrays the dynamic nature of signing. The photo illustrates the whole article on sign languages by showing people using a sign language. I'm not a professional photographer, but it seems to me to be well-framed, and the composition of the photo draws attention to the face of the man on the right, which is very appropriate since in sign languages people generally look at each other's faces. So, until something better comes along, this is definitely worth keeping. AlbertBickford (talk) 11:48, 11 August 2011 (UTC)

The newer picture related to signing at a rally for the Pittsburgh Steelers is not the best possible photo for illustrating an article on sign languages. To many (including me), it seems the person is simply showing a peace sign. I am willing to believe that the person is actually signing ASL, but I suggest it be replaced by a photo that is less ambiguous.Pete unseth (talk) 13:09, 28 January 2013 (UTC)

What shows that it is ASL is the facial expression, which doesn't match a peace sign. But, there is another issue about this picture. We got rid of a picture of interpreters illustrating an article about sign languages in order to get away from the hearing stereotype that sign language is used for communication between Deaf and hearing via interpreters. We wanted to illustrate sign language as a living language that is used by Deaf people primarily among themselves. A picture of an interpreter takes the focus off Deaf people and onto hearing people who are "helping" the Deaf community, which conveys a paternalistic attitude. So, if we have a picture of an interpreter at all, it should be in a section about interpreting, not at the head of the article. I'm going to move it. AlbertBickford (talk) 02:51, 29 January 2013 (UTC)
OK, done. In order to do so, I had to make a further change that was long overdue: teasing apart the distinct topics of telecommunications and interpreting, by adding a section dealing just with interpreting (that references the main article on the subject), refocusing the section about telecommunications onto Deaf people's use of the technology among themselves, and then finally talking about the two topics together in VRI and VRS. AlbertBickford (talk) 03:48, 29 January 2013 (UTC)

Merge: Asking for directions...[edit]

The following discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section.

This (unexplained) proposal was closed in December 2011, with No consnesus for a merge. Archived, and tags deleted (again!) Moonraker12 (talk) 09:20, 2 October 2013 (UTC)

Hi everyone - where do I find the discussion for the merge proposal about sign language history? I'm a touch lost about which article history (or maybe project history) I might find it at? Failedwizard (talk) 09:00, 28 July 2011 (UTC)

It looks like it has not been discussed yet, so we might as well get it going here. I support the proposal. The History of sign language page is short and far from covering the topic well. Merging it here makes sense as the little bit of information that is in that article and not in this one already can easily be added here. If/when the history section here becomes substantially larger it can be split into a separate article but right now there really isn't enough material for a separate page. Roger (talk) 09:32, 28 July 2011 (UTC)
Support. Oppose. I've had a lot of success with this kind of thing. One of the articles I manage, Sesame Street, is really a series of summaries of forked articles. This is what I did: I created, wrote/expanded an article for each section, and then used the article's lead for the sections in the original article for a summary of the sections. It took a lot of work, but I think that the result was worth it. I recommend that you do that for this article, or at least this section. In other words, someone with the resources, time, and desire should research, expand, and rewrite the history article, write a good lead for it, and then use it in the history section here. Although I've been signing for thirty years, I'm not volunteering, because I don't have the resources for this kind of thing anymore. Christine (talk) 16:31, 28 July 2011 (UTC)
Okay, really newbie question - when we support (or not) are we saying we support the articles being merged, or support them being seperate articles? Failedwizard (talk) 21:21, 28 July 2011 (UTC)
The proposal is to merge two or more articles, so "Support" means you agree that they should be merged while you would use "Oppose" to indicate that you think they should be left as separate articles. Traditionally such posts are begun with the keyword in bold text - this makes it easier for the summarising admin to pick out the arguments on each side. Roger (talk) 17:19, 11 August 2011 (UTC)
Okay, my issue was confusion - I thought that Christine's 'Support' supported the merge, but my reading of her supporting argument to her support, looked to me like she was opposing it... very confused... but it's likely I'm just misreading... Failedwizard (talk) 10:07, 14 August 2011 (UTC)
No, I'm the one who was confused. My apologies. My husband would say that I had a blonde moment. ;) Christine (talk) 14:20, 14 August 2011 (UTC)
So it looks like this kind of stalled with no consensus either way (I'm ambivalent... ) how about I remove the template (assuming nobody objects in the next few days) and we'll have another look if/when someone starts doing some serious work on either of the articles? Failedwizard (talk) 21:27, 26 October 2011 (UTC)
Doh! I forgot about this, finally removed the template...Failedwizard (talk) 13:21, 15 December 2011 (UTC)

The above discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section.

Margalit Fox[edit]

I added her book *Talking Hands: What Sign Language Reveals About the Mind to the bibliography. i dont edit at this article, but this seems like an important book on the subject, and wanted to draw editors attention to it. I have not read the book myself.Mercurywoodrose (talk) 17:06, 2 October 2011 (UTC)

So I moved it to 'further reading' because I understood that bibliography was only for sources cited in the article... but now I'm having quite a lot of second thoughs... hmm... anyone have an opinion? Failedwizard (talk) 21:34, 26 October 2011 (UTC)
Currently there are only two sections: "References" and "Bibliography", and no "For further reading"; the sections have probably been retitled since your note. References is the normal section title for sources cited in the article, so Bibliography is for other citations, and that's where Fox's book is now. I haven't read it yet either, but it has been highly recommended as a very readable explanation of what sign languages are like in general, in addition to its focus on Al Sayid Bedouin Sign Language. AlbertBickford (talk) 07:20, 30 September 2012 (UTC)
It must not be listed in Bibliography if it has not actually been used to write the article - it belongs in Further reading. Roger (talk) 09:13, 30 September 2012 (UTC)
What's the basis for that assertion? Is this a standard Wikipedia policy? Also, it would help if you would sign your posts, thanks. AlbertBickford (talk) 09:07, 30 September 2012 (UTC)
Yes it is standard practice - see the WP:Further reading#Relation to reference sections guideline. Roger (talk) 09:13, 30 September 2012 (UTC)
Thanks for pointing that out. But, it raises another issue, in that there are several items listed in the bibliography section that are not obviously used in the article, e.g., they are not cited. Is that something that should be looked into, e.g. should someone attempt to move more items from Bibliography to For Further Reading? Or leave well-enough alone? — Preceding unsigned comment added by AlbertBickford (talkcontribs) 03:10, 1 October 2012 (UTC) Oops, now I forget to sign, sorry. AlbertBickford (talk) 03:28, 1 October 2012 (UTC)

School for the "Deaf" or for the "deaf"?[edit]

In the caption for the photo of the sculpture, it says it is near a school for the "Deaf", rather than "deaf". I had thought that "deaf" was the term for lack of auditory ability, but that "Deaf" was a cultural and identity label. If this is correct, should the caption say school for the "deaf"?Pete unseth (talk) 13:53, 6 February 2013 (UTC)

That's a tricky one. There's not a hard-and-fast rule, nor even a universally-agreed-upon set of guidelines. In this case, if the school uses sign language and otherwise serves as a means for transferring Deaf culture, then it could be considered a school for the (culturally) Deaf, although it could also be described as a school for the (audiologically) deaf since that would presumably be the reason a child would go there. Complicating this is the fact that some people are moving away from making the Deaf/deaf distinction, since it is difficult to maintain consistently and leads to all sorts of awkward decisions like this one. Let's see if any of the other editors have an opinion on this issue. Whatever we do here, we should do it consistently throughout the article. AlbertBickford (talk) 18:49, 6 February 2013 (UTC)
Unfortunately some people wish to impose their cultural views on a wider spectrum of the population, and the capitalized spelling of 'deaf' is an example of that. Perhaps it gives them a sense of power. Irrespective of that, Wikipedia is not their personal fiefdom and such people have no special authority to lay down the spelling and capitalization rules for this encyclopedia. If text or captions refer directly to Deaf culture I personally don't have a general objection to the use of capitalization, however restyling every usage of the word is inherently wrong and should be corrected. That said there are undoubtedly other editors who would object to forced capitalization on the basis that almost no dictionaries show the word as a proper noun related to the deaf community, and also for the reason thAt ThoSE mAkIng theiR OwN spellING RuleS caN ProovE quiTE DiSTRaCTiNG. Best: HarryZilber (talk) 22:38, 6 February 2013 (UTC)
It appears that you're one of those who reacts against the Deaf/deaf distinction that was introduced maybe 40 years ago, and want to get rid of it. Personally, I don't feel strongly about the issue either way. I would be comfortable keeping the Deaf/deaf distinction in the article, as long as it was appropriately used (and in several places it wasn't). I see, though, that you've gone ahead and changed several (all?) instances of "Deaf" to "deaf", and the usage is certainly more consistent than it was. Let's see if anyone objects. AlbertBickford (talk) 00:14, 7 February 2013 (UTC)

Order of sections on Technology and Interpreting[edit]

There is one change that Harryzilber made recently (while changing instances of "Deaf" to "deaf") that I disagree with. He swapped the order of the two subsections on Sign Language Interpreting and Remote Interpreting. Logically, people need to know what interpreting is before they can understand remote interpreting, which is why I put them in the original order. Admittedly, that separates Remote Interpreting from the discussion of technology. The problem is that people need to understand both about videophones etc. and about SL interpreting for the discussion of remote interpreting to make sense. So, whether we talk about Telecommunications or Sign Language Interpreting first, both of them have to precede Remote Interpreting, and thus one of them is going to be separated from Remote Interpreting. For now, I feel strongly enough about having Sign Language Interpretation come before Remote Interpreting, that I'm going to put it back. If you strongly disagree, then let's talk about it further. AlbertBickford (talk) 00:19, 7 February 2013 (UTC)

Distracting picture — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:13, 29 March 2013 (UTC)

first printed pictures of signed letters[edit]

it is written in the history section that "The earliest known printed pictures of consonants of the modern two-handed alphabet appeared in 1698 with Digiti Lingua" but in the article History of sign language we can see Engravings of Reducción de las letras y arte para enseñar a hablar a los mudos from the book of Bonet, printed in 1620. i think this part of the text could be removed :

The earliest known printed pictures of consonants of the modern two-handed alphabet appeared in 1698 with Digiti Lingua, a pamphlet by an anonymous author who was himself unable to speak.[12] He suggested that the manual alphabet could also be used by mutes, for silence and secrecy, or purely for entertainment. Nine of its letters can be traced to earlier alphabets, and 17 letters of the modern two-handed alphabet can be found among the two sets of 26 handshapes depicted.

it is redundant with what is written before and obviously partly wrong. it may also be added "Some of" (the earliest known...) in order to keep this part. (fast and easy Tongue.png)

--SyntaxTerror (talk) 14:02, 17 April 2013 (UTC)

Disagree. This paragraph is talking about the two-handed alphabet used today in British, Australian, and New Zealand Sign Languages. Bonet's alphabet was a one-handed alphabet, presumably a precursor of the one-handed system used by languages derived from Old French Sign Language. So, they aren't in conflict; they're talking about different things. Does that need to be made more obvious, though? AlbertBickford (talk) 03:18, 21 April 2013 (UTC)

Removed unsourced ¶ re: very little historical linguistic research on sign languages[edit]

Removed the following unsourced paragraph from the article. This paragraph was added in 2008, where it was copied from another article that contained the paragraph, unsourced, since 2006:

There has been very little historical linguistic research on sign languages, apart from a few comparisons of lexical data of related sign languages. Sign language typology is still in its infancy, since extensive knowledge about sign language grammars is still scarce. Although various cross-linguistic studies have been undertaken, it is difficult to use these for typological purposes. Sign languages may spread through migration, through the establishment of deaf schools (often by foreign-trained educators), or due to political domination.

This was added to the article in rev 201664465 of 12:51, 28 March 2008 in slightly different form, having been moved from the topic List of language families, rev 201106446 of 12:52, 28 March 2008 where it existed since the original version of the article on 07:18, 11 August 2006. Mathglot (talk) 04:56, 18 June 2013 (UTC)

Agree, good point. Things have changed a lot since 2006. Still not a lot of research on historical relationships, but there's been a lot more work on Typology. If the article is to talk about how sign languages spread, it deserves more than a single unsourced sentence. So, if we want the article to cover these issues, we should start afresh. (talk) 12:03, 18 June 2013 (UTC)
Oops, I wasn't signed in wrote that. AlbertBickford (talk) 12:05, 18 June 2013 (UTC)

Major omissions in article[edit]

I've only just come upon this article, and there seem to be some major omissions. The terms "bilingual[ism]", "diglossia", and "encoding" do not even occur in the article, much less have sections devoted to them, and "regional variety" is barely mentioned. It's late, so I won't attempt a lengthy addition now, but here are some basic thoughts:

  • bilingualism - unlike many native speakers of spoken languages, in the vast majority of cases native deaf signers grow up in an geographical environment where another language is everywhere used. Thus ASL and BSL learners are surrounded by speakers of AE or BE, and so on. This has profound impact on the language; there are many aspects to this, fingerspelling, name signs, syntax of pidgin varieties used with second-language signers (hearing learners of SL), and more. An (imperfect) analogy with bilingual countries with majority/minority languages might be helpful, maybe Paraguay (es-gn) or Spain (es-ca-eu-gl).
  • diglossia - to my knowledge H and L varieties exist everywhere SLs are used.
  • encoding vs language - a basic misunderstanding of the uninitiated is that an SLs is an encoding of the language of the region. Thus, e.g., that BSL is a more or less word-for-word transcription of British English into a signed modality, in the way that Braille is a transcription of it into a tactile modality or Morse code is a transcription into an auditory one. Having clarified the point concerning the true SLs, one would then have to describe (or at least, link to articles about) encodings such as SEE and possibly such things as Cued Speech and explain the distinction between a true SL and an encoding, e.g., ASL as used by deaf signers amongst each other, and SEE. Possible discussion of lip-reading or fingerspelling as encodings.
  • regional variety - more could be said about this.

The section on language acquisition is quite short, and much more could be said about it--hearing children learning from deaf parents, households with one hearing, one deaf parent, deaf children of hearing parents, mainstreaming, boarding schools, deaf adults acquiring second sign languages, and more. Dictionaries are barely mentioned, and could be added to the section.

Probably sections could be added for each of the above (or folded into some existing section). Imho, the encoding issue is so crucial, that some mention of it should be made in the lede. Mathglot (talk) 06:36, 18 June 2013 (UTC)

I agree that it may be good to address these issues in more detail, particularly because of widespread misconceptions about them. I'd caution, though, about going overboard--we could through the article off-balance in the other direction. Further, some of these topics *are* already addressed in the "Linguistics of Sign" and "Sign languages' relation to spoken languages" sections. I suggest you look at those sections again, and if you still think additions would be helpful, you consider first adding a sentence or two to the parts of the article that already deal with the issues, rather than adding whole new sections. The issues that seem to have the least mention so far have to do with language-internal variation (diglossia, regional varieties, and we could add register); that would be a good candidate for a new section under "Linguistics of sign languages". Or, maybe we should start a separate major section on "Sociolinguistics of sign languages", since "Linguistics of sign languages" is getting long and includes both structural and sociolinguistic topics. AlbertBickford (talk) 12:24, 18 June 2013 (UTC)
Albert, thanks for the tips, including pointing out some bits I had missed (yes, it is getting long). If/when I ever get to this, I'd certainly ask for your further help/advice on it.
While I'm here, please go have a gander at Lou Fant. I was astonished to see that no page existed on this topic, so I threw one together. Lou was about the only one out there back in the day, being the lone face of American sign to those of us who were hearing and didn't have a direct community connection to the deaf. He was huge in his day, in print, on TV, in film, everywhere--and it's sad/suprising to me to see how little information is out there about him now, other than obits and scattered bits from deaf blogs. If you have other sources of info, please point me to them, and of course, feel free to improve the article in any way you see fit. Mathglot (talk) 05:35, 19 June 2013 (UTC)
I agree, it is surprising that there wasn't an article about him, and I'm glad you started it. I added one detail, the fact that he was hearing, which is significant to his role as a bridge-builder between Deaf and Hearing communities. See other notes on the talk page for that article. — Preceding unsigned comment added by AlbertBickford (talkcontribs) 13:20, 19 June 2013 (UTC)


As this page is already 73 Kb long, and there are suggestions (above) that more needs to go in, is is it worth considering splitting it? For starters, there is already a separate article on the History of sign language, which mirrors what is here; is it worth reducing the section here to a summary and move the rest there? If there are no objections I will do that in a few days. Moonraker12 (talk) 09:32, 2 October 2013 (UTC)

number of speakers?[edit]

No where in the article do we have anything about how many people speak sign. If I look at the language pages for other languages I can see that they suggest everyon in a cuontry speaks that language a s a first language. So do all deaf people speak a first language of English or whatever? I guess not and so those should not be included in the population figures. What do deaf people do when they have a form to fill in that asks about language use? DO they put English or sign down for example? Do they say WHICH sign? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:21, 3 May 2014 (UTC)

You need to look at the articles on the actual languages. In many cases, including ASL, we simply don't know. — kwami (talk) 00:33, 4 May 2014 (UTC)

d:Q34228 subclass of d:Q184767[edit]

Hi! Please compare: Sachbegriff: Gebärdensprache Sachbegriff: Zeichensprache

From: de:Zeichensprache "Gebärdensprache wird oft fälschlich als Zeichensprache bezeichnet, was auf eine fehlerhafte Übersetzung (engl. sign language) zurückgeht. Gebärdensprachen sind jedoch natürliche Sprachen, die Lautsprachen in allen linguistischen Aspekten ebenbürtig sind."
Please help with the English language Wikidata labels and descriptions. Thanks in advance! gangLeri ‫·‏לערי ריינהארט‏·‏T‏·‏m‏:‏Th‏·‏T‏·‏email me‏·‏‬ 10:39, 9 May 2014 (UTC)

P.S. GND-search for Gebärdensprache provides multiple results.
Can you please identify what en.Wikipedia artikles (or what articles from other Wikipedias) correspond to the listed terms? ‫·‏לערי ריינהארט‏·‏T‏·‏m‏:‏Th‏·‏T‏·‏email me‏·‏‬ 10:44, 9 May 2014 (UTC)

P.P.S. some help links / overviews: Reasonator and Reasonator .

Gebärdensprache is equivalent to "Sign language", and German Sign Language is Deutsche Gebärdensprache, from which the initialism DGS. Zeichensprache, according to the lede of that article, refers to nichtlautsprachliche Verständigungssysteme zur Kommunikation, "communication system for understanding without spoken language", including divers' signals, "talking drum" communication, semaphore, symbolic road signs, and more. I don't know of any corresponding term in English. To discuss this with me, please {{Ping}} me. --Thnidu (talk) 01:02, 29 January 2015 (UTC)

DDC – Dewey Decimal Classification (P1036)[edit]

Please see providing a large list. Would be happy if you could help adding the DDC statements to the proper Wikidata items. Thanks in advance! gangLeri ‫·‏לערי ריינהארט‏·‏T‏·‏m‏:‏Th‏·‏T‏·‏email me‏·‏‬ 11:15, 9 May 2014 (UTC)

Moved from Hearing loss article[edit]

This (off-topic) text was in the Hearing loss article and perhaps might be reviewed for incorporation here, where it better belongs. Some of it needs to be rewritten and re-cited. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 17:09, 20 November 2014 (UTC)

The history of sign language[edit]

The history of sign language was full of frustration and confusion for individuals in the deaf society. In the mid-1960s, William Stokoe, a hearing scholar from Gallaudet University worked alongside his deaf colleagues to develop a new sign language dictionary that used the internal structure of sign language, including hand shapes and their specific movements to define words. As a result, some came to view sign language as a human language that could be analyzed and understood as like any other. The majority of deaf people, however, felt offended and angered by such a creation. Professor Gilbert Eastman at Gallaudet was shocked that someone would present his language through a collection of bizarre squiggles and symbols. Both members of the deaf and hearing society struggled to name "the sign language", contemplating whether or not it should have even been considered an actual form of language to begin with. The deaf community worried if such a language would contribute to their state of minority. Evidently, the recognition of American Sign Language brought more conflict and anxiety instead of the expected excitement and joy assumed to occur from the development of a new language. The basis of their anxiety came from their exposure to the public and the thought of exactly how they were to develop their own deaf culture. The combination of language and culture promised equity and opportunity to their minority group and they needed to learn how to develop both. In the 1970s and 1980s, the National Theatre of the Deaf hosted many who were poets and expressed their deaf culture through sign language on stage. Dorothy Miles was one of the first poets to generate ASL poetry. Throughout her career, she went from creating poetry where she precisely matched signs with words to performing poetry where she manipulated the signs themselves to create new forms of meaning that were beyond words themselves. Forms of art, like this one, brought the deaf community together to experience language through performance, which sparked the development of their culture.[1]

Multiple types of sign language[edit]

There is no single "sign language". Wherever communities of deaf people exist, sign languages develop. While they use space for grammar in a way that oral languages do not, sign languages exhibit the same linguistic properties and use the same language faculty as do oral languages. 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, for example the American Sign Language within the United States and Canada, while others have no status at all. Deaf sign languages are not based on the spoken languages of their region, and often have very different syntax, partly but not entirely owing to their ability to use spatial relationships to express aspects of meaning. The expression of the deaf language differentiates with the time era in which those with hearing loss live.[1]

Communication methods[edit]

Hearing loss can affect an individuals acoustics during speech and delay the development of expressive and receptive spoken language. This can result in the limit of academic performance and the extent of an individuals vocabulary. The early detection of hearing loss in children can help maximize the development of auditory skills and spoken language. Once a family is aware of their children’s hearing loss, they can decide what communication approach they would like to implement for their child. There are several different types of sign language/communication options which hearing impaired individuals can use in their everyday language. The following communication options can be considered along a spoken and visual language continuum.

Auditory-verbal (AV)

Auditory-verbal communication is developed through the use of a hearing aid and the integration of hearing impaired individuals into a community of individuals who have hearing and use spoken language. During therapy, the individual is not permitted to view facial expressions and the lips of the speaker. Since the goal of this communication method is complete integration in the mainstream, the individual is not at all exposed to sign language.


Communication is similar to auditory-verbal in the sense a hearing aid is used and the individual is integrated in a spoken language community. Unlike auditory-verbal, the individual is permitted to use facial expressions, lip reading and gestures to receive messages and communicate.

Cued speech

Cued speech is a visual type of communication. It is made up of eight hand shapes and four different hand locations around the face (at the lips, side of lips chin and throat). Each handshake represents a group of constanants. Constants in each group can be distinguished through lipreading. Vowels are expressed by positioning the hand to one of the four locations around the lower face. Cued speech helps improve lipreading skills and understanding of speech of individuals who do not cue. It is said that people can learn cued speech in 18 hours.

Manually coded english (MCE)

Manually coded english is a close representation of spoken english. MCE uses signs and finger spelling. MCE’s syntax follows the rules of spoken english and lexical items which have no specific signs are finger spelled. Morphemes are represented by certain gestures or finger spellings.

Total communication (TC)

Individuals who use total communication combine signs, gestures, lip reading, auditory speech and hearing aids to communicate. In schools, TC is the most common communication method.

Simultaneous communication (SimCom)

SimCom is very similar to TC, except amplification from a hearing aid isn’t used.

American sign language (ASL)

American Sign Language is a language completely separate from English and is purely visual. It is considered by deaf culture its own language. ASL has its own rules for grammar, word order and pronunciation. The syntax of ASL differs from English because sentence structure begins with the subject, followed by a predicate. Individuals communicate using hand shapes, direction and motion of the hands, body language and facial expressions. While English speakers normally use an upward inflection in their tone to ask a question, ASL users ask a question by raising their eyebrows or scrunching their forehead. Magnification and exaggeration of certain signs can convey different meanings. For example, exaggerated movement of the sign for "happy" would mean "very happy." ASL varies regionally. [2]

Too much ASL?[edit]

I get the impression that this article overuses descriptions, examples, images and videos related to American Sign Language, to the exclusion of other languages. We need to try harder to maintain a global pov of the topic - which is sign language in general, the ASL article is over there. -- Roger (Dodger67) (talk) 09:57, 29 December 2014 (UTC)

Deaf communities and Deaf culture[edit]

There were three paragraphs in § Deaf communities and Deaf culture: one general and vague one about the title topic, and two, very confusing and badly written, about native American signing. I'm cleaning these up and am going to integrate them into §Use of signs in hearing communities, where there is already a paragraph about the topic.

Some parts of § Deaf communities and Deaf culture were so confusing I could make no sense of them, and the best I could do was to remove them completely. Those parts are in boldface below. For the record, here's what it said before:

Deaf communities are very widespread in the world and the culture which comprises within them is very rich. Sometimes it even does not intersect with the culture of the hearing population because of different impediments for hard-of-hearing people to perceive aurally conveyed information.
There are many theories indicating what native American sign language were applied for. One theory indicates that the sign system's development provided great ease for the local inhabitants to talk with each other: In the 1500s, a Spanish expeditionary, Cabeza de Vaca, observed using sign language with the natives on the west part of modern day Florida. In mid 16th century, Francisco de Coronado also mentioned that communication with the Tonkawa using signs, was possible without the presence of a translator.
Ideas narrate to doing business with the use of sign as a common understandable language, and even exaggerated ideas of Native American using sign because they were perceived to be "exotic" and "uncivilized" group also prevail. Nevertheless, the sign adhered by the Indians were used primarily with communication between tribes or for the usage of hunting. If gestures that were used by primitive individuals or Native Indians did in fact or not quite reach the stage of being official languages, excluding the usage of oration and still having full communication, is still up for debate.There are estimates indicating that as frequent as 15 in 650 Native Americans have serious deafness or are completely deaf. These estimates are more than twice the national medium.

To discuss this with me, please {{Ping}} me. --Thnidu (talk) 23:46, 28 January 2015 (UTC)

I like what you did. Sorry to jump in to do other things while you were still working on it. Are you done now? AlbertBickford (talk) 23:55, 28 January 2015 (UTC)
    • ^ a b Padden, C., & Humphries, T. (2005). Anxiety of Culture. Inside Deaf Culture (pp. 123-143). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
    • ^ Gravel, J. S., O'Gara. J. (2014). Communication Options for Children with Hearing Loss. Retrieved October 31, 2014, from