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Sign languages' relationships with oral languages

Laban Movement Analysis>Video images of American Sign Language usage

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HandSpeak: A Sign Language Dictionary Online

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SignWriting - is a way to read, write, and type the movements of signed languages. Learn about Valerie Sutton and DACS Sutton Movement Writing & Shorthand is a complete movement notation system for recording all body movement. The system includes five sections:

  1. DanceWriting - records dance choreography
  2. SignWriting - records signed languages
  3. MimeWriting - records classic mime and gesture
  4. SportsWriting - records gymnastics, ice skating, karate
  5. ScienceWriting-records physical therapy, body language, animal movements, and other forms of movement. MESSAGE TO THE SIGNWRITING EMAIL LIST - The Gorilla Foundation
Established in 1976, The Gorilla Foundation/ promotes the protection, preservation and propagation of gorillas. A primary focus involves teaching a modified form of American Sign Language to two lowland gorillas, Koko and Michael.

Could Bonzo Go To College MAY 6, 1996 TRANSCRIPT Do chimpanzees have language skills? Paul Hoffman, editor of "Discover" Magazine takes a look at both sides to the story.

Sign language babies "babble" 9/501
Babies exposed only to sign language learn to babble in sign - and their hand babble mimics the sign language their parents use, just as verbal babble sounds like speech. The finding supports the idea that children are born with a propensity to learn language, regardless of how that language is mediated.
Laura Ann Petitto at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, and her colleagues studied two groups of hearing babies. Half had hearing parents, the other half had profoundly deaf parents who used sign language. The researchers videotaped each of the babies at six, ten and 12 months and at each session tracked the movements of their hands using LED sensors.
The researchers found that both groups of babies waved their hands around at high frequency. But analysis of the sensor data revealed that only the sign-exposed babes produced low-frequency rhythmic hand activity.
This low frequency movement is temporally similar to what's seen in genuine sign language. What's more, the low-frequency hand movements tended to be within the "sign phonetic" space in front of the baby's body - just as a signer's activity would be - whereas the high-frequency movements were mostly outside it.

Babies babble in sign language too 7/15/04 Journal reference Cognition (vol 93, p 43)
Babies exposed to sign language babble with their hands, even if they are not deaf. The finding supports the idea that human infants have an innate sensitivity to the rhythm of language and engage it however they can, the researchers who made the discovery claim.
Everyone accepts that babies babble as a way to acquire language, but researchers are polarised about its role. One camp says that children learn to adjust the opening and closing of their mouths to make vowels and consonants by mimicking adults, but the sounds are initially without meaning.
The other side argues that babbling is more than just random noise-making. Much of it, they contend, consists of phonetic-syllabic units - the rudimentary forms of language.
Laura-Ann Petitto at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, a leader in this camp, has argued that deaf babies who are exposed to sign language learn to babble using their hands the way hearing babies do with their mouths.

Infrared diodes

Petitto believes that the hand-babbling is functionally identical to verbal babbling - only the input is different. But critics counter that deaf children cannot be directly compared with their hearing counterparts.
Now Petitto and her colleagues have tested three hearing babies who, because their parents are deaf, were exposed only to sign. Three control infants had hearing, speaking parents.
To analyse the hand movements of the six children, the researchers placed infrared-emitting diodes on the babies' hands, forearms and feet. Sensors tracked the movements of the babies' limbs as they engaged in a variety of tasks, including grasping for toys and watching two people communicate.
Petitto reasoned that if her opponents were right, then what the babies did with their hands would be irrelevant - and indistinguishable. Instead the team found that the two groups had different hand movements.

Pattern recognition

Sign-exposed babies produced two distinct types of rhythmic hand activity, a low-frequency type at 1 hertz and a high-frequency one at 2.5 hertz. The speech-exposed babies had only high-frequency moves.
There was a "unique rhythmic signature of natural language" to the low-frequency movements. "What is really genetically passed on," Petitto says, "is a sensitivity to patterns."
But Peter MacNeilage, of the University of Texas at Austin, is not persuaded. "She makes a blanket statement that there is an exact correspondence between the structures of speech and sign," he says. "But there is no accepted evidence for this view at the level of phonological structure or in the form of a rhythm common to speech and sign."