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Many people must have heard of sign languages, but only a few of them who truly understand the purpose, meaning, and usage of the language. In this essay, various details about sign language will be unraveled. Let’s start off with sign language as a natural language that uses different means of expressions of communication in daily life.
Sign language is specifically the only means of communication for the hearing impaired. Sign language develops in deaf communities where the people are deaf or have problems with hearing.
Sign language is delivered by simultaneously mixing hand shapes, orientation, and movements of hands, arms, body, and facial expressions to express the communicator’s thoughts. Of the many examples of sign languages, the two most well-known are American Sign Language (ASL) and British Sign Language (BSL). The hand signs of each language are different, but there are signs with universal sentence structure. For example, ‘hi’ and ‘goodbye’ signs have the same meaning in sign languages all over the world.
Sign languages require communicators to use hand gestures and facial expressions, but people need to keep in mind that sign language is not an unconscious body language. An example of unconscious body language is when people are tired or bored: normally, people tend to put their cheek on their hand unconsciously. This type of body language doesn’t mean that those tired people are using sign language. Some more examples of unconscious body language are pouting, rolling eyes, clenching a fist, and crossing arms.
To clarify, sign languages do not just copy another language such ASL doesn’t just copy English.
A simple good test is to find an English word with two different meanings. For example, the English word ‘right’ has two meanings: one is the opposite of ‘left’, and the other is the opposite of ‘wrong’. If ASL stands for English words, there would be a sign with these two meanings, but there’s not. They are expressed in two different signs in any forms of sign languages.
Sign language has its own grammar, syntax, and idioms that are different with those of spoken languages. The usage of grammar, syntax, and idioms in sign languages is not translated from spoken languages. People need to learn the grammatical structures and the idioms of sign language when they want to communicate with sign language.
People who don’t understand sign language have the misconception that sign language is not a “true language”. In fact, professional linguists have studied many sign languages and found them to have contained every linguistic component needed to be classified as true languages.
One interesting example of a sign language is Nicaraguan Sign Language (NSL). NSL arose in the early 1980s when hundreds of isolated deaf people were brought to school for the first time. For the first time, it was possible to see the emergence of a new language. This case became interesting because NSL wasn’t created by language contact or by merging previously existing languages, rather it was formed by the merging of idiosyncratic gesture systems called “home signs”. Nowadays, Nicaraguan Sign Language is still in use and used widely by the people in Nicaragua. This is an evidence that a language can be formed spontaneously as long as the communicators understand each other.
In conclusion, sign language is a manual language that deaf people use to communicate with each other and to make the communication between the deaf and the normal ones easier. Sign languages have provided deaf people with all the communication support they need.
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