November 19, 2023

What is in Sign Language?

Many signs in sign language are iconic, which means they resemble an object or action. For example, the sign for "book" is made by clasping your palms together like you are opening a book. Teach baby this gesture before he gets older and begins to learn to read.

In addition to using handshapes and movements, sign language conveys information through a wide range of facial expressions, head movement, body positioning and the space around the speaker. This visual, spatial nature of the language makes it a more complex system of communication than spoken languages. Sign languages include classifier constructions, a high degree of inflection with changes of movement and topic-comment syntax.

Signs can function as either nouns or verbs, depending on how they are used. Typically, verbs have larger hand gestures and nouns have smaller ones. In some cases, a sign can be used as a noun and a verb by doubling it. For example, the sign for "thinking" can be repeated to become the sign for "eating."

The discovery that Deaf people have a natural language has led to the development of literary culture in sign. Many Deaf people have written novels, plays and poetry in their own languages. These written works are becoming more widely available on videotape. They have given the Deaf community a sense of pride in their language and culture and have provided new insights into how to teach children to read.


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