Talk:Sign language

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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)

Sign languages in society: technology Suggestion[edit]

Currently, there is a hearing-centered bias in the article, in that discussions of technology (in the section on Sign languages and society) tend to assume that there are interpreters involved, for communication between deaf and hearing (or, more likely in many hearing people's minds, from hearing to deaf). This is a common bias in society, of course, but it doesn't reflect a WP:NPOV. I made some changes a couple years ago, distinguishing the use of videophones for deaf-to-deaf communication from their use with interpreters, but I notice the bias is still there. What brought it to my attention was inclusion of material by @Athomeinkobe: from an old article about sign languages on television. I fully support merging of that article into this one, but I notice that the new material seems to talk exclusively about interpretation of programs that are aimed primarily at hearing people. There's nothing explicitly stated (unless I missed it) about programs that use a sign language as a primary language, created by Deaf people for other Deaf people. More generally, we don't cover other uses of technology for primary communication by sign language users without an interpreter, such as vlogs and other video on the internet, video communication other than videophones (Skype, etc.), distribution of sign language material on phones, etc.

So, what I think is needed is to separate out the technological developments about the way video technologies are being used for sign languages into a section separate from sign languages in society. Comments? AlbertBickford (talk) 21:42, 9 March 2015 (UTC), updated AlbertBickford (talk) 21:43, 9 March 2015 (UTC)

I agree with Albert's changes. By way of explanation, I came across the Sign language on television article because it was listed at [1]. Since the proposal had been neglected for more than three years, I decided to merge it into the end of the article. I'm glad Albert identified an appropriate location for its insertion.
Together with Albert's comments above on what is lacking, I'd also like to note that the contents that are there are also stale, for example quoting a 2008 article about "emerging technologies". Hopefully more current information on the television interpretation aspect can also be added. AtHomeIn神戸 (talk) 02:47, 10 March 2015 (UTC)
Video technologies on the internet, of course, are hardly "emerging" any more. But, from what I can tell, there really isn't much new to update, except that things have gotten faster and better quality. Maybe vlogs came out since 2008, and that's something that should be included. In particular, I don't know of anything that has changed in terms of how interpretation is handled on television, but then, I don't watch those programs (don't watch TV at all, in fact). AlbertBickford (talk) 02:56, 10 March 2015 (UTC)

janelli joyce batchar — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:59, 24 March 2015 (UTC)

Section to Add[edit]

I am editing the baby sign language page and am looking to remove a section from it. The section I wish to remove is a journal study discussing a bilingual hearing child born to deaf parents and raised with both spoken and signed speech. I think this could be a good asset to this page as it talks about using authentic Italian sign language and the influence of sign language on hearing children's abilities. I am adding the section onto this talk page with the citations so it can be treated accordingly.

Case study on bilingual exposure A study entitled "Hearing Children Exposed to Spoken & Signed Input"[1][2] investigated the transition from gesture to sign in a case study of an Italian, hearing, bimodal, bilingual child.

Marco was "a bilingual hearing child of deaf parents exposed to sign and [oral] language from birth". Though both parents were deaf, they used both Italian Sign Language (LIS) and spoken Italian, at some times simultaneously. Marco was also regularly enrolled in a day care with Italian-speaking peers.

Gesture was considered anything that a hearing (Italian) monolingual child had also been observed producing, whereas LIS was only considered in use if it resembled an adult speaker's LIS or a simplified sign, as judged by a native signer.

Under these criteria, Marco did not appear to have a "sign advantage." "Sign advantage" refers to the hypothesis that children who learn sign language and spoken language simultaneously will reach early linguistic milestones more rapidly in sign than in speech.
Differences appeared in Marco's use of deictic and representational gestures as compared to those of monolingual children.
"While Marco used proportionately more representational than deictic gestures at both comparison points, monolingual children produced deictic gestures much more frequently than representational gestures."
He was able to use representational gestures more comfortably and practically, showing that "exposure to sign language may enhance a children's appreciation of the representational potential of the manual modality; this may, in turn, generalize to gesture use."
Marco differed from all the studied monolingual peers in that he was able to combine and use two representational gestures.Sarah.Monk (talk) 15:56, 3 March 2016 (UTC)
This seems like it would be an interesting addition to the Sign Language article. However, I'm puzzled as to why you want to remove it from the Baby Sign article, as it seems to be relevant to it (although I think in both cases I'd suggest shortening and summarizing it, and maybe rephrasing to make it clearer to a non-technical audience). AlbertBickford (talk) 16:20, 3 March 2016 (UTC)
I also wonder why it is removed from Baby Sign. I don't believe that the Baby Sign article should exclude studies with deaf parents or deaf children. I also am concerned that legitimate sources were removed simply because they "could no longer be accessed". Sometimes the locations of online sources change. Better to mark them as "dead links"; someone may find them. Even better is to try to find them yourself. Sundayclose (talk) 17:02, 3 March 2016 (UTC)

Baby sign is not in fact a language as ASL, BSL or ISL are languages that have grammar, syntax and punctuation. Baby sign is an extension of symbolic gesture and therefore using this study, since it talks directly about a specific form of sign language being taught as a language, does not apply to baby sign. Although I do agree that it could use some simplification before it is accessible to the public. The goal of the baby sign article is to inform readers of what baby sign is, how it can be implemented, and what affects it can have on language acquisition for children. For a child who is bilingual and learning a legitimate sign language it does not apply to the article. Although we do provide a link to this sign language article on the baby sign page.Sarah.Monk (talk) 18:13, 3 March 2016 (UTC)

(talk) We are not excluding studies with deaf parents, this one was solely excluded for the use of a legitimate sign language with a bilingual child because it brings about situations that apply directly to learning a sign language not baby sign. As for the worry about legitimate sources I assure you I spent countless hours searching for them on numerous academic, google, and other search engines. Sources that could no longer be found were removed but that does not mean that all information was removed, previously existing information that applies to baby sign has now been cited from sources that can be accessed. Certain information was removed because it can not be substantiated from more than one source. Studies regarding deaf children, if we find them, will be touched on briefly with a link to the sign language pages since deaf children are going to be learning a true sign language after basic introduction to baby sign. I welcome more comments about the Baby sign language page but do ask that you post them on the Baby sign talk page itself. Thank you. Sarah.Monk (talk) 18:13, 3 March 2016 (UTC)

Thanks, Template:Ping:Sarah.Monk for your explanations. Now that I understand your goal for the Baby Sign page, and I agree with it completely: Keep the page focused on the use of signs with babies where there is no intention for the child to acquire a natural sign language, and use cross-references to this or other articles when a real natural sign language is to be discussed. Also agreed--further discussion of that page should be done on its own talk page. AlbertBickford (talk) 22:25, 3 March 2016 (UTC)


  1. ^ Volterra, Iverson, & Castrataro, V, J. M. & M. Advances in the sign language development of deaf children. Oxford University Press. pp. Chapter 3. 
  2. ^ Capirici. Iverson, Montanari, Volterra, Olga, Jana. M., Sandro, Virginia (2002). "Gestural, signed and spoken modalities in early language development: The role of linguistic input". Bilingualism: Language and Cognition. 5 (1): 25-37. 

The lead: teaching sign language to non-humans[edit]

The lead states unequivocally that non-human primates have been taught to use sign language. I think if we look at the entirety of the research on this issue conducted over that last 30 years and the response of linguists, we can only conclude that such a claim carries with it considerable controversy and disagreement on a number of issues. Some of the details in this regard are discussed later in the article and at Great ape language. There is also discussion of this issue on this talk page at Talk:Sign language#Animals use of LANGUAGE. I'll acknowledge that this article and Great ape language probably need better sourcing on both sides of the issue. But in the mean time I would like to get the lead consistent with the information that is already in the articles.

First, I should emphasize that my main concern is the unequivocal firmness that it is stated in the lead that non-humans use sign language. There is some research supporting that possibility, but there are also challenges to both the methodology and the conclusions that have been made by the researchers. The criticism is particularly strong by some linguists (Chomsky, for example). The gist of the criticisms has been that it is unclear at best that the non-humans are using language rather than simply signs. An analogy would be a person's use of a few words of a foreign language that can be described as communication but not language as defined by the linguistic rules that qualify the communication as language. There also has been criticism that some of the conclusions about non-human use of language have come from the trainers who are biased and do not necessarily understand what constitutes a "language." Other arguments that the research fails to distinguish between "communication" and "language" have come from observation by native users of the sign language watching videos of the animals; some of the native users commented that the communications did not follow the usual syntactic and grammatical rules of the sign language and that some of the signs were not recognizable if the viewer did not know the context of what the animal was trying to communicate about.

The main point I am trying to convey here is not a definitive conclusion that non-humans have not or could not learn a sign language. My point is that the conclusions have enough dispute and criticism that the statement in the lead needs to be toned down so that it doesn't indicate without reservation that non-humans have learned a language. That would make the lead consistent with other parts of the article (and with Great ape language), as well as the overall research data. Sundayclose (talk) 19:04, 10 June 2016 (UTC)

  • Agree generally. I'm of the camp that non-humans haven't learned a sign language, just some symbols, but that doesn't seem to be what you're asking. There is definitely a controversy, and the statement in the lead does not reflect that and so should be changed. Wugapodes [thɔk] [kantʃɻɪbz] 20:06, 10 June 2016 (UTC)
@Wugapodes: Actually I personally agree that nonhumans that are described in the literature have not learned language. I've discussed this with many native ASL users and none are convinced that it's language. But that's only my anecdotal experiences, and there's enough evidence on both sides that NPOV requires us to present both sides. And actually that seems to be the case for the articles as a whole, but not the lead of this article. I'm not opposed to moving the current statement out of the lead to another part of the article. Sundayclose (talk) 21:32, 10 June 2016 (UTC)
    • I agree. Given the controversy, we should not make a blanket statement in the lead. There's a further issue: the use of sign languages (or some facsimile of them) with primates is a *very* small part of the article overall--just a tiny section at the very end. I'd suggest that the appropriate solution would be to take the one sentence that mentions primates in the lead, remove it from there, and meld it into the section on primate use of language. What do the rest of you think? AlbertBickford (talk) 20:16, 10 June 2016 (UTC)
I agree--the sentence in the lead is disproportionate to the content in the article and should be moved to the primate section at the end. I'd recommend keeping this article and Great ape language mostly separate. This article is really about human sign language, so I would recommend a hatnote saying something like "This is about human sign language. For a discussion of sign language in other primates, see Great ape language." --Mark viking (talk) 20:43, 10 June 2016 (UTC)
I would be opposed to a hatnote worded like that, or honestly any hatnote at all. I think it's disproportionate coverage to be at the very top in a hatnote. I think the {{main}} link to Great ape language in the "in primates" section as it currently stands is enough. Wugapodes [thɔk] [kantʃɻɪbz] 22:00, 10 June 2016 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────If there's no objection, I will reword and move the sentence out of the lead. Sundayclose (talk) 13:29, 11 June 2016 (UTC)

It sounds like we're all agreed that we should move the one sentence out of the lead and into the section about primate use of sign language. The sentence itself is fine, and it has useful links to the various apes involved, it's just in the wrong place. I'm not totally decided about the hatnote issue, but tend to agree with the idea of not having a hatnote at the top of the article. Hatnotes in that position are important for guiding people to other articles that a reader may be looking for. There's a hatnote there now, guiding people to an article on manual codes for spoken languages. Those are often confused with natural sign languages, so that is a useful hatnote. But, if someone was interested in sign language use in research with primates, they are most likely going to go to an article on primates. Or, if they do start with the article on sign languages, they'll scan it for mention of primates, and fine the section that refers them to the relevant article. So, although I wouldn't object strongly to a hatnote, I think it is better without one. Let's just move the one sentence and then see what it looks like. AlbertBickford (talk) 01:23, 12 June 2016 (UTC)
BTW, I was about to make the change, but then I saw Sundayclose had volunteered to do so, so I'll defer to you. AlbertBickford (talk) 01:23, 12 June 2016 (UTC)
So, we're to mention it in the Lede, since it's a topic in the body of the article (as per what we're supposed to do), but perhaps trim it down to just mentioning that - according to the references we have on hand - primates have been taught to use a form of sign language for inter-species communication. It shouldn't vanish out of the Lede, is what I'm saying. - Jack Sebastian (talk) 01:38, 12 June 2016 (UTC)
It's disputed that it is a "form" of sign language, rather than just memorization of signs. An analogy is someone who knows 100 or so words in a foreign language. They can use words, but they do not use the "language" (which includes syntax and grammar). No linguist that I know of would state that someone who knows a few words actually is using the language, just a component of the language. It is disputed that nonhumans use more than signs, which alone are not a language but a component of the langauge. Another issue by some who commented above is whether the lead should have any mention of the issue since it's a small part of this article and is covered in more detail in another article. Sundayclose (talk) 01:53, 12 June 2016 (UTC)
That's a point worth considering that the lead/lede should include a mention of a topic that is included later in the article. As I read the guidelines on the lede, the concern is not to include every topic from the article in the lede, but to give an overall summary of the article, one which is sensitive to the relative importance of the topics within the article. In this case, I'd argue that the section on primate use of signs is so small, compared to the overall size of the article (especially considering ways that it could be reasonably expanded), that it doesn't deserve mention in the lede. AlbertBickford (talk) 01:58, 12 June 2016 (UTC)
The hatnote was a navigation suggestion and if the consensus is to leave it out, no worries. --Mark viking (talk) 02:43, 12 June 2016 (UTC)
I think that we have references referring to primate sign language and it bears repeating that our reasoning regarding the quality of that sign language is immaterial, since our opinions are not usable as sources of references. Of course, if Sundayclose is an expert in primates or sign language, then we should cite an article that (s)he has written in real life, noting one of those linguists they "know" explaining the differences. As editors, we cannot make that distinction.
I think - if anything - that a bit more of the primate stuff should be in the article as well. A LOT of our readers who come across sign language as an article are going to want to know why primate sign language isn't a part of the article. If expansion of the topic in the article is necessary, I'd be happy to do so. - Jack Sebastian (talk) 03:10, 12 June 2016 (UTC)
Just as an aside, I was looking over the article in question with an eye towards expansion, and it would appear that reference #89 (Premack & Pemack (1983), Premack (1985), Wittmann (1991) ) would appear to not actually exist. If it does, we need a reference that more clearly verifies the statement it is supposed to be supporting - Jack Sebastian (talk) 03:17, 12 June 2016 (UTC)
The article already has reliable sources regarding the dispute about whether or not nonhumans (apes) use sign language and whether it should be referred to as "language", in the section on "Primate use". And it's sourced even further at Great ape language. Sundayclose (talk) 03:20, 12 June 2016 (UTC)
The 1983 book Premack book exists with GBooks link The Mind of an Ape and we have an article on it: The Mind of an Ape. --Mark viking (talk) 03:24, 12 June 2016 (UTC)
(edit conflict) Ahh, the reference was simply written incorrectly. And I was aware of the side article, but its cool that you do, too. While Premack is pretty well-known in the field, his opinion about the inability to teach sign language to primates other than humans is a minority one. Would it be unfair to give Premack's view more weight than, say Washoe's or the others who believe differently? I'll fix the citation, so someone else doesn't get confused by it. However, since I cannot find the subsequent dates of studies noted in the reference apart from the book by the Premacks (1983), I'd probably correct the spelling of Premack and remove the others; they deserve separate references anyway. - Jack Sebastian (talk) 03:35, 12 June 2016 (UTC)
As best as I can see, all of those sources exist. They're listed in the Bibliography. Sundayclose (talk) 03:27, 12 June 2016 (UTC)
Unfortunately, "as best as I can see" doesn't constitute verifiability. If you could provide more detailed sources, that would be great. - Jack Sebastian (talk) 03:36, 12 June 2016 (UTC)
RE: "it would appear that reference #89 (Premack & Pemack (1983), Premack (1985), Wittmann (1991) would appear to not actually exist". From the Bibliography in the article:
  • Premack, David, & Ann J. Premack (1983). The mind of an ape. New York: Norton.
  • Premack, David (1985). "'Gavagai!' or the future of the animal language controversy". Cognition 19 (3): 207–296.
  • Wittmann, Henri (1991). "Classification linguistique des langues signées non vocalement." Revue québécoise de linguistique théorique et appliquée 10:1.215–88.
Sundayclose (talk) 21:54, 12 June 2016 (UTC)
And that's the way they should have been entered into the article, and not as a misspelled grouping. - Jack Sebastian (talk) 23:41, 12 June 2016 (UTC)
Yes, thanks for pointing out that one letter was omitted. I had to look a little. One of the three "Premack" entries omitted a letter. What made it a little easier for me to find was that everything else was spelled correctly. Sundayclose (talk) 00:19, 13 June 2016 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── I noticed Jack Sebastian's change of "basic signs" to "sign language" in the section about the issue. It seems to me that neither wording is NPV, so I changed this to simply "signs", and adjusted wording later to try to bring out the meat of the controversy. Also, I'm not aware that there is any controversy about animals' ability to communicate with signs (or by other means), so I removed that claim, which was unsourced. AlbertBickford (talk) 14:17, 12 June 2016 (UTC)

With regard to newer references, I'd recommend citing Doctor Doolittle's Delusion (2004) by Stephen R. Anderson. I haven't read it myself, but this issue is the main topic of the book. According to descriptions I've read, the book makes a sharp distinction between communication and language (language being one type of communication, but by far not the only one), and argues that although animals can use elements like signs to communicate in ways that share some traits with human language, their use of them is much more limited than what occurs in natural human language. At any rate, it presumably includes citations to more recent research. Hopefully, too, we can find more recent research that presents the opposite view.
Incidentally, this distinction between communication and language is an important one for the article on sign language as a whole, since it is also important for distinguishing natural sign languages from invented artificial systems like Signed Exact English. AlbertBickford (talk) 14:17, 12 June 2016 (UTC)
Hi Albert. I used 'sign language' as that was what was utilized in the book, not signs. So it isn't an issue of NPOV; its the language used. The litmus for inclusion in an article is verifiability, not truth (ie. we don't have to agree with what they say, but we do have to verifiably cite it). As for the distinction between communication and language, I agree that it would be a good one to make, so long as we have supporting documentation that makes the entirety of the arguments with relation to sign language. This allows us to avoid the problem of synthesis. We cannot be program managers by taking two seemingly unconnected pieces of information and joining them together in a new way. We can cite folk who do this, but we cannot do it ourselves. - Jack Sebastian (talk) 16:34, 12 June 2016 (UTC)
OK, granted, but if you look at even the advertising blurbs from Anderson's book, you could see that it could be cited as demonstrating that the term "sign language" itself is controversial--indeed, whether it is language or not is the essence of the controversy. Part of it is a matter of definition--linguists use the term "language" in a very precise way that is not shared by non-linguists. (So, as far as "truth" is concerned, what seems to me to be happening is that primatologists have a definition of "language" which does describe what the apes are doing, but the linguists' definition is stricter. What we're grappling with, though, is how to modify the article in a verifiable way. I'm sure Anderson's book could provide that, but not having read it, I can't do that. Maybe I'll just have to.)
Anyway, a to acknowledge the controversy while still being verifiable, respecting the writings of primatologists who claim that animals have learned "language", how about a wording something like this: "There have been several notable notable examples where scientists have attempted to teach sign language to non-human primates in order to communicate with humans, but it is a matter of substantial controversy whether these animals have learned language (as a complete system comparable to its use in humans) or simply a set of signs that they can use to communicate." Alternately: "There have been several notable examples of scientists who have claimed to teach sign language to non-human primates...". Both, I think, would state in a neutral way what these scientists have actually done, and what they believe has happened, without endorsing their claims. What do you think? AlbertBickford (talk) 18:46, 12 June 2016 (UTC), updated AlbertBickford (talk) 18:52, 12 June 2016 (UTC)
The best way to accomplish this modification of the article is to find references that talk about the controversy. We cannot use our knowledge of the controversy to talk about it. We can use that knowledge to guide our search for relevant citations, but without those citations, we cannot say anything about the controversy. - Jack Sebastian (talk) 23:39, 12 June 2016 (UTC)
I agree that more citations are needed, especially more recent ones, and I suggested one source above (but unfortunately don't have time to follow it up right now myself). However, we already have citations on both sides of the debate, don't we? And we have existing wording in the article that acknowledges a debate. Hence, we have an obligation to achieve a NPOV among the citations we already have. My edits and suggestions have been directed to that end. AlbertBickford (talk) 01:29, 13 June 2016 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── I went ahead and moved the sentence out of the lead to the closing section, since it seemed like discussion on that aspect of the issue had died down. There's still the matter of how to describe the controversy over whether apes can have language, how much of it to handle in this article in addition to the main treatment elsewhere, and getting some newer citations in here. I also think we should check the citations about sign language being used with various specific types of primates, particularly the claim that Bonobos (pygmy chimpanzees) have learned it. AlbertBickford (talk) 01:43, 13 June 2016 (UTC)

@Jack Sebastian: I think you may have a misunderstanding of how editorial discretion and WP:NPOV works. As editors it is in fact our job to frame these issues, that's why WP:Due and undue weight exists. It is the job of editors to be able to weigh the substantiality of coverage. Being able to frame issues and make judgement calls is why NPOV exists and works, we are humans with brains not robots. Without discretion we would just be a list dueling of quotes from books and websites, not an encyclopedia. As people who have read substantial literature on this, our intuitions as to what is and is not neutral or undue are important, and our ability to frame it is not tied by WP:NPOV in the way you suggest. Considering multiple editors have said this term is not neutral, a controversy in the literature clearly exists, and a neutral descriptive way has been suggested to remedy those, I don't find your arguments particularly persuasive. Wugapodes [thɔk] [kantʃɻɪbz] 01:46, 13 June 2016 (UTC)
Respectfully, I think you are confusing an essay with policy. Apart from me in essence agreeing with your arguments, the point is, I am not asking you to be a "robot". I am asking you to realize that though you might be versed on a subject, you are not citable. This encyclopedia is built on references. Yes, we decide which references are from solid sources and which are fringe theories and so on, but we don't decide which side of a discussion/disagreement the article is going to fall on . We list both sides and allow the reader to make up their own mind. If a neutral remedy has been proposed tha tis supported by references pro and con, maybe I have missed that. If so, I'm sorry. Could someone present the nutreal descriptive way for me? - Jack Sebastian (talk) 02:42, 13 June 2016 (UTC)
The statements that I've suggested are based on the citations that we already have, some of which claim apes have learned sign language, some of which say it's not language. I don't know if anyone has come up with a neutral way of saying it in the literature, but I do believe that the citations we already have, both in this article and in the Great Ape Language article, are sufficient to justify the neutrality of the wording that I proposed. AlbertBickford (talk) 23:19, 13 June 2016 (UTC)
Respectfully, if the literature has not found a way to address or even identify the merits of the opposing viewpoints, I do not believe it is up to us to make that distinction. The possible reason why references regarding the comparisons of the differing viewpoints aren't being found is that they might not exist. This would suggest that the differences are likely less important than the body of work itself, which is still compiling information, studies and theories. The so-called "controversy" might in fact be an artificial construct for the purposes of this article only. If the latter is the case, any discussion of any dissent/controversy doesn't belong here. We can present both points of view, and allow the reader to make up their mind. - Jack Sebastian (talk) 18:49, 17 June 2016 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── With an eye towards resolving this discussion on the common ground we have found, I've made an edit that addresses the concerns:

Wherever communities of deaf people exist, sign languages have been developed. Signing is not only used by the deaf, it is also used by people who can hear, but cannot physically speak. It's also taught to other primates besides humans, such as common chimpanzees, Bonobos and Orangutans, though there is disagreement as to whether the language taught is true sign language. While they use space for grammar in a way that spoken languages do not, sign languages show the same linguistic properties and use the same language faculty as do spoken languages.

Thoughts? - Jack Sebastian (talk) 23:30, 24 June 2016 (UTC)

I disagree with the edit, which essentially undoes a change I made on 13 June. My change has in effect been reversed twice by Jack Sebastian, and was reinstated once by SundayClose, so clearly we need to talk about it more. Here's my case: I still feel that the treatment of non-human use of sign language is not sufficiently important to justify its inclusion in the lede. Furthermore, there are strong sources already cited in this discussion (though not yet incorporated in this article--I have Anderson's book on order so I can read it before actually introducing citations, although it is clear from previews that it claims to make a strong case against the claim that apes have learned sign language, and that they can only be claimed to have learned signs). Further, I would note that one of my specialties as a linguist is sign languages, and in my familiarity of the linguistic literature on sign languages I have not ever seen a single article or publication by a linguist that even mentions ape use of sign language. In an article about language, it should be linguists (who specialize in studying language) whose practice guides us as editors. Now, it is difficult to cite the lack of citation, but we should certainly pay attention to the absence of citable support for the notion that apes have learned sign *language*, as well as citable works such as Anderson's (as well as any textbook for an Introduction to Linguistics class, which treats the topic of animal communication and why it cannot be considered to be language--works that represent the consensus within the linguistic community). Given that absence, it seems appropriate to omit any mention about attempts to teach signs to apes from the lede. I'm not saying eliminate it from the article entirely; the current treatment at the end of the article, with a reference to the other article where the subject is treated in more depth, is adequate. At this point, it is up to Jack Sebastian to provide citations of articles that support including any more information about ape use of sign language in this article. I'd submit that these should be recent citations, since 2000, rather than the old claims that are currently cited. AlbertBickford (talk) 04:08, 25 June 2016 (UTC)
On a related matter, I have been suspicious about some of the references cited in the article. In particular, the references that were cited about teaching sign languages to Bonobos (pygmy chimpanzees) do not support that claim. It was not ASL or even signs from ASL that were learned by pygmy chimpanzees, but an abstract symbol system represented by drawings on a symbol board. For example, in the article by Savage-Rumbaugh et al "Spontaneous Symbol Acquisition and Communicative Use by Pygmy Chimpanzees", there is no mention of ASL, sign language, or signs. Accordingly, I have removed all references to Bonobos from the article. (Now, admittedly, it is impressive that these bonobos learned the symbol system spontaneously, without being taught it--but that belongs in an article about Great Apes or Bonobos; it has nothing to do with sign language.) AlbertBickford (talk) 04:33, 25 June 2016 (UTC)
Here's one more thought on the significance of non-human use of sign languages to an article on sign languages. Suppose this was the article about English. It would not be notable that English was used to train dogs, that dogs could learn to respond to commands issued in English. It would not be notable that English was taught to any particular group of people in Afghanistan. It would not be notable that parrots can learn to speak English phrases. Indeed, some of the Bonobos who have learned an abstract symbol system also are claimed to understand English. All of those things are simply not important enough to an article about English to be mentioned in it. They might indeed be notable in articles about dogs, Afghanistan, parrots, or bonobos, but not in an article about English. It is the same situation here. The primary use of sign languages is by Deaf people and their friends and family. They are secondarily used by other groups of people under special circumstances. But, their use by a tiny handful of apes does not say anything of significance about sign languages. Those are facts about great apes, worth mentioning briefly in the article, but not in the lede. AlbertBickford (talk) 04:44, 25 June 2016 (UTC)
Oh, BTW, lest anyone misunderstand, my reference to Afghanistan was not meant in any way to demean people in that country. Their ability to learn English is far greater than the ability of the animals mentioned. The point is that just because a language is taught to someone or something, that doesn't make it a notable fact about that language. AlbertBickford (talk) 04:50, 25 June 2016 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Looking back through talk pages, I found an earlier (and unfortunately much more contentious) discussion on this topic that may be worth reviewing, here. The conclusion seems to have been to include a brief mention of animals' use of sign language in the article, which is what we inherited when the current discussion began. AlbertBickford (talk) 05:26, 25 June 2016 (UTC)

Thanks AlbertBickford. There is no consensus to include information about teaching signs to apes in the lead; in fact the weight of opinions at this point is in the opposite direction. Regarding the previous discussion from 2010, there was support for mentioning teaching of "signs" to apes, although not much support for teaching "language". Sundayclose (talk) 14:36, 25 June 2016 (UTC)
Thanks, Sundayclose, for spotting that issue about "sign language" vs. "signs". I agree, the sources currently cited support only the claim that apes have learned signs, not that they have learned sign language. Although I still favor removing the whole sentence from the lead, I'm content to leave it there for now until we can insert more recent citations that document the claim that consensus among linguists is a) what apes have learned is not language and b) the topic of apes learning signs is not important enough to be mentioned in the lede, at least not in the way it currently is. (Again, I've got the relevant books on order.)
But, here's a new idea, something that may help us move toward consensus on this issue. I've noticed that the last few subsections of the article concern use of communication systems that resemble sign languages in various ways, but aren't full languages--in other words, things that non-linguists often confuse with full, natural sign languages but which linguists generally agree are not (full) languages: baby sign, home sign, ape use of signs, etc. Also, the current major heading that they are under, "In society", seems very broad and not particularly helpful. Suppose we group these few sections together under a new major section head titled "Communication systems that resemble sign languages". Besides the ones we already have, we could include a short section on manual codes for spoken languages, a topic that (I think) is otherwise mentioned only in the hatnote. Another topic to mention might be sign systems like those used by sports umpires and scuba divers, which consist of a relatively small set of standardized vocabulary and perhaps rudimentary syntax, but a very limited semantic domain. Anyway, each topic (subsection) in this new section would include a short paragraph or two about the topic, consisting of a description, summary of the similarities and differences with natural sign languages, and a hatnote to the main article about the topic. If we do that, then the overall major section would be significant enough within the article that we could include a single sentence in the lede mentioning it, something like "Natural sign languages are distinguished from other systems that are derived from them or otherwise resemble them, such as manual codes for spoken languages, "baby signs", "body language", signs taught to non-human primates, and speculation about use of signs in the early evolution of language." That allows mention of the ape research in the lede, but in a context that keeps it in balance with other topics. Would that be acceptable to everyone? And, I think the article would be strengthened by making clear, in the lede, that not everything that the general population calls "sign language" is considered to be that by linguists. AlbertBickford (talk) 22:14, 25 June 2016 (UTC)
@AlbertBickford: Thanks for your well thought-out suggested changes in the organization of the article, as well as your suggested sentence in the lead that incorporates various non-language systems that are derived from sign languages. I agree completely. I also agree that a brief section on manually coded systems that are based on sign languages is needed in the article. Sundayclose (talk) 23:34, 25 June 2016 (UTC)
Since there are no further comments, I'm going to go ahead and give it a shot now. Hold tight while I put the page through a series of changes. AlbertBickford (talk) 01:49, 6 July 2016 (UTC)
OK, I'm done. Take a look at what I've done so far. I also intend to go ahead and update the citations and wording in the section on primate use of sign languages, but before I do that, I want to see if people like this rearrangement of things. People who may be interested: Sundayclose, Jack Sebastian, Wugapodes, Mark viking. Thanks! AlbertBickford (talk) 02:02, 6 July 2016 (UTC)
I took a quick look and agree with the changes. There's a problem with a citation syntax in the home sign section that I can't figure out how to fix, so maybe someone else can take a look. Thanks. Sundayclose (talk) 02:44, 6 July 2016 (UTC)
I fixed the citation problem; it was one <ref> tag inside another. AlbertBickford (talk) 12:05, 6 July 2016 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────I have now completed the changes I had anticipated in my comments above. In the discussion of ape use of signs at the end of the article, I added a reference to Dr. Doolittle's Delusion and two other published works that represent linguists' perspective on signing apes, to balance the claims by primatologists (in previously-existing references). Someone may want to also insert these references into the main article: Great_ape_language#Primate_use_of_sign_language, but I think I'll stop here. Thanks to everyone for a stimulating discussion, which finally prompted me to read the Doolittle book. AlbertBickford (talk) 02:15, 28 July 2016 (UTC)