Bopping with Niall JP O'Leary

Niall O'Leary insists on sharing his hare-brained notions and hysterical emotions. Personal obsessions with cinema, literature, food and alcohol feature regularly.

Friday, November 02, 2007


Something I learnt tonight reaffirms my disillusionment with the human race (don't get me wrong, I love it and all). Apparently sign language, an invention of the last 150 years, is completely different depending on your country. Funnily enough I knew this already, but the full breadth of this monumental stupidity hit me tonight. Here you had a chance to create a language, a potentially universal language, for a relatively small section of the population, and what do we do? We subdivide it again, making each community even smaller than it already was. What a race!


At 6:21 pm, Blogger ian said...

yeah but, the roots of modern sign language are pretty old, from a time when getting delegates from all over the world to come together and agree a language would have been nigh impossible (for logistical reasons). Also, you are assuming that sign languages are entirely artificial, that they were created by some Lord Sign Language somewhere who said "wouldn't it be great if there was a way we could communicate with deaf people, not using sounds, but using hand gestures!"; they were not - the US and French sign languages have as part of their sources the sign language spontanaeously developed by a Parisian deaf subculture, with the Americans then incorporating elements from the self-generated sign language of Martha's Vineyard(where due to the locals' relative isolation, a recessive gene had become so common that 5% of the population were congenitally deaf). I bet other countries' sign languages incorporate elements from their own deaf people.

At 7:46 pm, Blogger Niall said...

Thanks Ian. I should know better than to make sweeping statements without knowing the full facts. I do understand everything usually develops the way it does for good reasons (even if they are sometimes the 'good reasons' of particular individuals). Thanks for the background.

At 11:02 pm, Blogger ian said...

Having said that, everything I said about the origins of sign languages is based on some bits and pieces I half remember from a book by Oliver Sacks I skimmed many years ago, so I could be talking total nonsense.


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