Thursday, September 16, 2004

And this would be MY professor...

So this is cool. I just found this lil' article on Yahoo.

First, this is the exact thing I've been learning about in class for like 2 weeks now, so I'm like "neato."

Secondly, my Second Language Acquisition prof is currently at the Netherlands Org doing his thang. Although he's not mentioned in this article.

Read on mes amis...
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Experts Study New Sign Language System

WASHINGTON - A new system of sign language developed by deaf children in Nicaragua may hold clues about the evolution of languages.

When the country's first school for the deaf was established in 1977, children were not taught sign language but developed a system of signs to communicate.

That method of communicating now shows similarities to other languages, researchers say in Thursday's issue of the journal Science.

Language experts have argued for years about whether the basic traits of all languages are hard-wired in the human brain or have developed by trial and error over the years.

The paper's lead author, Ann Senghas of Barnard College of Columbia University, and her colleagues suggest that even if children are not born with a mental blueprint for language, they can move from a simple communication system to a true language in a short time.

In the Nicaraguan sign language, older members of the group used relatively basic gestures while younger children divided the movements into separate words with which they formed into sentences.

As additional groups learn the language, they expand on it, making it more useful.

"We're seeing evolution in action, but what's evolving here isn't an organism, it's a language system," Senghas said in a statement.

The study was funded by the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research, the National Institutes of Health (news - web sites) and the Turkish Academy of Sciences.

In a separate study reported Thursday, researchers at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health said that young children learn vocabulary in fundamentally the same way, regardless of the language being taught.

Their study involved 269 mothers of children who were 20 months old and lived in various countries.

The children were learning to speak Spanish, Dutch, French, Hebrew, Italian, Korean and American English. The mothers filled out a questionnaire designed to gauge the extent of their children's vocabularies.

The major part of the children's vocabularies turned out to be nouns, followed by adjectives, the researchers said in the journal Child Development.

"This study shows that while languages may differ greatly, the sequence by which young children learn the parts of speech appears to be the same across different languages," said Dr. Duane Alexander, director of the child health institute.

"By learning about the normal progression of language development, we may be able obtain information that will help children who are having difficulty learning language," Alexander said.

The mothers in every country reported that their children learned significantly more nouns than other types of words. The researchers said this held true regardless of whether the language emphasized nouns, as does American English, or verbs, as does Korean.

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