In everyday life, in trains, buses and in the streets, we can often see the deaf people. They always attract the attention of the public: people strenuously pretending that they have absolutely no interest, yet are secretly watching deaf. What do at that moment people with disabilities to communicate feel? Is it difficult? How is it to live life not hearing a word? What a person feels, whose life lies within his inner world?
For a deaf person the world around is perceived in another way. For example, if parents teach a deaf child to talk, to do it, they need to remember the vibrations of different sounds, not being able to hear them. They have to learn how to pronounce different sounds, when they want to play and have fun like any other child of this age. However, instead, they have to spend a few hours daily training. It is very difficult for a child, but it is usually required by their parents, whom they want to please so as they were proud of them. They have to try hard to learn to understand what other people say to them, judging only by the lips. In the case of strangers, it is even more difficult. Unfortunately, it is the reality for many people around every one of us.
Despite the fact that we do not often think about it, yet the percentage of deaf people in most countries is quite high, so I think that this problem is quite relevant today. Moreover, many educated people today know sign language. For example, the Queen of Sweden enjoys a special reputation among deaf Swedes. Being a highly educated and intelligent person who knows several foreign languages, she understands and supports the need to use sign language. In general, recently, the study of sign languages became popular among people who do not have hearing problems. Study of the courses of foreign languages in colleges and universities in the U.S., conducted in 2002, showed a huge increase in popularity of courses on sign languages (up to 61 000 students) compared with 1998.
History of the development of sign language
Sign language is a kind of special speech, allowing people to denote whole words and letters of the alphabet with certain gestures. Sign language for the exchange of information is used both by people with impaired hearing and vocal cords, and by people without such deficiencies. Accordingly, there can be distinguished: a) sign language for people with no defects of speech (e.g., in the Australian tribes widows after the death of men for a year use only sign language for communication). b) Sign language for people with disorders of the organs of speech - blind or deaf (such people by the available data constitute 0.4 to 1.5% of population). Sign language by its capabilities is not inferior to the language of sounds, although socially it has lower status.
According to the hypothesis of the sign language origin of the American researcher G. Hughes first proposed in 1973, people sounding speech was preceded by sign language, which began to arise spontaneously 3 million years BC. Then sign language began to be supplemented by about 20 40 sounds (Neville & Lawson, 1987). Within 100 thousand years BC, speech sounds ousted the sign language. Intensive development of the sound speech began only within the last 100 40 thousand years BC.
The first confirmation of this hypothesis is that sign language of apes (chimpanzees use 200 gestures and gorillas - 1000) and children in the pre-speech - sensorimotor - period coincide. The second confirmation of the hypothesis was obtained experimentally. So, when a monkey was taught human sign language (it was taught a deaf-mute person is taught), it absorbed about 500 words and reached the level of development of a child of five. Monkey communicated in this language with people and other relatives, the apes. At the same time, this monkey even knew how to make generalizations (e.g. lemon and mandarin - citrus fruits) and also swear (knowing the word "junk" monkey scolded her husband, which angered her: "You – junk person."
Over the past few decades in the ever-growing volume of literature, which explores and describes the deaf sign language, there were added new assumptions and hypotheses about the origin and components of language (Armstrong, 2002). The idea expressed by William Stokoe, was that the sign system could really be language. Stokoe was a linguist who worked in the 50s in the Gallaudet University and described the system, now known as the American Sign Language (ASL). This system is based on linguistic principles of contrast at the lexical level - below gesture or word, thus suggesting that sign language may have a phonological level, which can be identified, which greatly expands the range of linguistic studies of these phenomena. Works of Stokoe also supported numerous attempts to describe the stages of the languages of mankind over the evolutionary history of species, research, and received the uncertain glory. The theory of the evolution of human language was proposed as a result of the Darwinian theory of the origin of species, but was not widespread due to insufficient evidence.
This area was so controversial that in 1866 the Linguistic Society of Paris banned discussion of this theory at their meetings. Stokoe and other scientists in the field of anthropology and linguistics referred to this theory and during 1960-1970 laid its more scientific basis (2005). Starting from the hypothesis of Stokoe, there was released a huge amount of research literature, which describes the attempts to define the degree of comparison possible between the sign and spoken language, and the role that each method has played in the evolution of language learning. Stokoe said that significant differences between the symbolic and spoken language stemmed from differences in the ability of the organs of sight and hearing to perceive information. Armstrong noted that deaf people have sensory thrills in a visual environment and it allows in sign language, says Peirce, to use design to some extent impossible in speech.
For many hearing people who are unfamiliar with sign language of the deaf, it is hard to imagine, through fundamentally different modes of transmission, that it has the same effect of communication as the spoken word. For centuries, people have regarded sign language as gestures, which does not correspond to speech. Armstrong (2002) quotes Edward Tylor, an influential British anthropologist of the 19th century, saying that it should be noted that the sign language in any case does not match writing of words and speech. One reason is that sign language has a limited ability to express abstract concepts.
All others noted trends in famous iconic languages to be mimic or iconic. In 1950, psychologists, argued that sign language was more illustrative, but lost in symbolism, precision, subtlety and flexibility, and these statements are still voiced today. In most countries, you can find cases where minority languages have been humiliated in public for political reasons. The idea of equality of the various kinds of languages was rooted in the early 20th century. Armstrong (2002) reminds us of the 1921 classic spoken language; Sapir said that the simplest South African bushman enjoys the forms of a rich system of symbols, which essentially is singing, comparable with refined French language (Corker & French, 1999). However, Armstrong points out that there were no steps towards the recognition of sign language of the deaf in 1950.
During this time, the place of deaf sign language was between recognition and denial of its legitimate existence. For example, the first school for the deaf, where there was used in teaching sign language arose during the European Enlightenment of the 18th century. They seem to have succeeded in creating the atmosphere of tolerance, at least in France and the United States during the first half of the 19th century. The origins of the American Sign Language begins with school for the deaf in Paris, which was founded by the abbot de L'Eppee in 1755 during the second half of the 19th century. In teaching deaf children in the West, there dominated pure oral method. Supporters of the oral method considered sign language to be a primitive form of communication, struggling to teach the deaf to speak and perceive speech, but that was under duress, it was believed that it was the only way the deaf could adapt to society and participate in all aspects of life. Therefore, sign language had to be eliminated.
The study, which was conducted by William Stokoe, tended to look for similarities between gestures and speech (2005). Stokoe focused first on finding in the American Sign Language elements similar to phonemes in speech. His goal was to devise a system of sign language similar to phonetic. It is understood that he had to overcome linguistic prejudice of many teachers and psychologists working with the deaf. Stokoe felt that the principles of sign language studies should follow the same that were used in the study of speech. These principles included the identification of a lexical structure and differences on a lexical level. Stokoe also realized that there was an important difference between sign and spoken language, which other researchers of the sign language sometimes forgot or ignored - the problem of simultaneously displaying different component gestures. He described these elements as visual analogs of the phonemes.
Stokoe identified three parameters of gesture: 1) the location (where the gesture is done); 2) the direction of movement of the arm or hand showing gesture; 3) the action or movement of the hand (2005). Other aspects of language - facial expression, the signals are not carried out by hands - now are recognized as part of the language. They are not so easy to describe by this system, but the system has stood the test of time and can be used in the description of gestures.
Stokoe’s success lies in winning acceptance of the American Sign Language as a natural human speech - it was a great achievement in the field of linguistic research. Today we see a large number of scientists linguists who study the American Sign Language and other sign languages, there is a body of literature describing the American Sign Language, which can surpass these figures of speech (Armstrong, 2002). However, these shifts were given a hard time. There were plenty of linguists and even directly deaf that defied Stokoe and tried to deny the linguistic status of the sign language system.
Gestures and the Sign Language
Among deaf people, there are several forms of speech, by which they communicate with each other - it has spoken language (verbal and gestural), dactyl and written. In an informal setting between the deaf they often turn to sign language (gestural speech - their "native" language). That is why educated deaf in all countries are like bilingual: in the easy communication they use their native language and in the official talks, worship, lectures, educational process, etc. they use a combination of gestures and dactyl (for the function words and morphemes, analogues of which are absent in the native language of the deaf).
Gestural communication plays an important role in any human communication. Throughout its evolution, human used gestural communication channel, understanding and appreciating the emotional state of the tribesmen by spontaneous movements of their bodies, legs, and in particular hand. The ability to communicate with gestures is inherent in people from birth. Precisely because of this, if necessary, people may communicate without preliminary training by using signs. However, in this case the meaning of their dialogue will be very limited. In all cultures equally with words there is a specific set of gestures (kinesics expressions), universally understood and applied independently, irrespective of the sound of speech. This fact determined a real opportunity for deaf people to find ways to contact other members of their culture. Although gestural vocabulary of the deaf child having no contact with deaf adults usually consists of a small repertoire of "home" signs, they can communicate with others at the elementary level. The principle of this kind of communication is similar to pantomime. When a deaf-mute child is hungry, he can notify parents by imitating the process of chewing, or raise the hand to the mouth. When he wants something - points with the index finger. When agrees - nods, and if denies - then shakes his head from side to side. An American researcher Goldin-Meadow showed that home sign language of a child is functionally similar to the children's language as it is (2005). It is structured on several levels and has a vocabulary, syntax, morphology. Deaf children - Americans between the ages of 1.4 to 5.9 years, were able to transmit information about current, past and future events and manipulate the world around them, as capable as children knowing a conventional sign language, comment on objects and people (including themselves).
In the recent past, many societies were very well developed and used sign languages in ritual silence, in communication at a distance, when there was the need to respect the silence on the hunt and in similar situations. Naturally, in those societies where there existed sign languages of the hearing people, few deaf people used them creatively enriching. However, these advanced and functionally rich options lexically proved short-lived, their use does not go beyond the narrow circle of friends of the deaf (Bowden et al., 2004). Numerous deaf communities, capable of supporting a functionally rich language and transmit it to new members is a late phenomenon that occurs in case of the high population density in urban areas.
In Europe, with increasing mobility of the population in modern times over large areas within the entire states began to develop common, so-called national languages. In a sense, the parallel process occurred in the case of sign languages. The most important impetus for their development and distribution on the territory of entire nations has been the emergence in the late 18th century of special educational centers for children with hearing impairments, in France - led by Abbe Charles Michel de L'Eppee, in Germany - under the leadership of Samuel Heinicke.
Successes of the French and German schools led to a proliferation of similar institutions in other countries, which borrowed only deaf educational ideas (as it happened in England) or the entire procedure, including the sign language (Emmorey, Kosslyn & Bellugi, 1993). The first such school in Russia was opened in 1806 in Pavlovsk, in the United States - in 1817 in Hartford (Conn.); both worked by the French method. As a result, the sign language of America was in the relationship with the Russian (through French), but to British Sign Languages (there are several), it is irrelevant.
Deaf sign languages themselves get their first own names: native language of deaf of the U.S. is called amslen (short AMerican Sign LANguage), and gestural form of standard English is commonly referred to as siglish (from SIGned EngLISH). Soon the structure of sign languages began to be studied in many scientific centers of America, Western Europe and the rest of the world. By the assessment of Stokoe, amslen was an exotic language and in some respects as far from American English as the Papuan.
Anyway, sign languages vary geographically. For example, in a small German state, there are several dialects. Despite the single sound language in Germany and Austria, the Austrian sign and the German sign language represent languages that are not related to each other. On the other hand, the American Sign Language has more in common with the French, and almost no resemblance to the British signed language. This is due to the fact that in the middle of the 18th century deaf French teacher Laurent Clerc came at the request of the American city Gallaudet on the establishment of the first school for the deaf in the United States. Laurent Clerc himself as a follower of sign method of Abbe de l'Epee influenced the spread of sign language in the United States, which explains the similarity between the American and French sign languages .
Sign language is independent, naturally developed language used by deaf or hard of hearing people for the purpose of communication. Sign language consists of a combination of gestures, each of which is produced in conjunction with hands mimicry, shape or movement of the mouth and lips, as well as in combination with the position of the body. Hearing and deaf linguists from different countries proved the consistency of sign language as a linguistic system with its own, distinct from the audio languages, morphological and syntactic features. The main difference between the structures of sign language from the sound that its structure allows people to send multiple streams of information in parallel (synchronous language structure). For example, the contents of the "object moving on huge sizes along the bridge" can be transmitted using a single gesture, while audio languages are functioning sequentially (i.e., information is transmitted serially, one after another).
Productive is a comparative study of the grammar and semantics of ordinary conversational and colloquial gestural systems as opposed to codified literary language. Conversational speech (including gesture) is characterized by two opposing trends: ruggedness and compactness, syncretism. For example, the meanings, which are codified in literary language by one token, colloquially are dissected: instead pen people often say something to write. In colloquial sign language, there is nominative analogy model type berry + black + language for blueberries.
Idiomatic expressions such as "shut up like a clam" in sign language are absent. It shows in a descriptive way. All the idioms are shown not by the form words, but by the meaning. All the matter is that people, who have hearing loss, have also some features of the psyche. As they say, they do not think in words (especially those who have severe hearing impairment), but rather gestures, so the vocabulary is very limited. Provided special education this can be avoided. As for idiomatic expressions, the "shut up like a clam" will be shown, as by the meaning, but accompanied by such mimicry that you will understand the meaning completely.
So, the word "lift" is closely associated with the image of "bend down and pick something up from the floor" (pick a handkerchief, raise the match); hence the expression "He lifted his hand" (in which the word "lift" is used in another sense), and "His temperature lifted," clearly divergent from this habitual way, often are not understood by the deaf. Therefore, it is quite natural that the task of learning a language to the deaf child is not simply mastering specific knowledge as mastery of knowledge, complicated by the presence of ambiguity and homonymy words, the resolution of which takes place in the context.
Saying in sign language along with gestural component contains non-manual component (use of sight, facial expressions, movements of the head and body). These tools work the same to the tone of the sound languages, and are used to express deixis (reference to some objects), denying, the actual division, different types of questions, correlating various syntactic constituents, etc. Sign language, as opposed to sound, is nonlinear. Grammatical information is usually transmitted simultaneously with lexical; gesture in the performance process is subject to some modulation (hand moves uniformly accelerated or intermittently, in a vertical or horizontal plane changes direction, the same gesture performed with two hands, etc.). In the syntax of sign language volumetric space is used primarily for localization: gesticulating "puts" participants of the situation in certain point in space, and further articulation place predicates predictably modified depending on the location of subject and object.
Armstrong, D. F. (2002). Original signs: Gesture, sign, and the sources of language. Gallaudet University Press.
Bowden, R., Windridge, D., Kadir, T., Zisserman, A., & Brady, M. (2004). A linguistic feature vector for the visual interpretation of sign language. In Computer Vision-ECCV 2004 (pp. 390-401). Springer Berlin Heidelberg.
Corker, M., & French, S. (1999). Disability discourse. McGraw-Hill International.
Emmorey, K., Kosslyn, S. M., & Bellugi, U. (1993). Visual imagery and visual-spatial language: Enhanced imagery abilities in deaf and hearing ASL signers. Cognition, 46(2), 139-181.
Goldin-Meadow, S. (2005). The resilience of language: What gesture creation in deaf children can tell us about how all children learn language. Psychology Press.
Neville, H. J., & Lawson, D. (1987). Attention to central and peripheral visual space in a movement detection task: An event-related potential and behavioral study. I. Normal hearing adults. Brain research, 405(2), 253-267.
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