Sign Language Myths Debunked
Myth one: Sign language is just gestures. It is not a language at all.
There is evidence that the first humans began to communicate with gestures. Later, gestures became a protolanguage, and then a full language. Spoken language could have developed in a similar way. For example, different growls can mean different things. So the grunts could have been turned into more refined syllables used in a protolanguage. So, finally, a full-fledged spoken language could have developed. There could have been too many words to deal with, and as a potential result, a structure could have been imposed on the words in order to handle the multitude of words. At what point do grunts become words in a spoken language? At what point do gestures become signs of a true language? There are too many grunts to claim that spoken language does not exist. Similarly, there are too many gestures to claim that sign language does not exist.
Myth Two: If sign language is iconic and photographic, then it couldn’t possibly be a language.
This kind of reasoning is illogical. According to research, iconic signs are still too abstract for non-signers to discover. Only the most basic signs like EAT, DRINK, and SLEEP seem to be universal. There is no valid reason why a language cannot be both iconic and abstract. English has some iconic and phonographic words, such as the sounds that animals and things make, for example, cock-a-doodle-do, moo, woof, chime, ring, tick-tock, etc. That doesn’t make them less of a word than other English words.
Myth Three: Sign Language has no order or structure. For example, the order SVO does not exist in American Sign Language (ASL).
There is research that found evidence of both order and structure in sign language. The structure and ordering of signs seems to follow the structure and ordering of words when there is minimal use of the space around the body to express concepts in parallel. There are several ways to use space to express more than one concept at a time. For example, a different group of signs called classifiers dictate structure and order.
Myth Four: Sign language has a direct one-to-one correspondence with spoken language.
English has many words that mean the same thing. A sign in ASL can represent all of these English words with essentially the same meaning, eg beautiful, beautiful, attractive, etc. all can be signed with a BEAUTIFUL ASL sign. At the same time, different signs in ASL, such as bipedal-RUN, quadpedal-RUN, OPERATE, MANAGE, COMPETE, etc., can represent the different meanings of the English word “run”.
Furthermore, translations between ASL and English are not easy due to the use of space to express multiple concepts at the same time. This is similar to foreign language translations when words are not directly translated into each other.
Myth Five: Sign language is slower than spoken language.
Research has found that the use of space and other cognitive shortcuts in ASL make it comparable in speed to English. It is not slower or faster. It’s just different.
Myth 6: Sign language is completely separate from spoken language.
There is a general tendency to emphasize that sign language is completely separate from spoken language. I found evidence to the contrary. Concepts, meanings, and cognitive structures of spoken language are more likely to influence sign language. For example, in English, adjectives come before the nouns they describe. This is evident in ASL. In Spanish, adjectives come after the nouns that they describe. This seems evident in the native sign languages of Latin America.
In addition, bilinguals may borrow vocabulary concepts and idioms developed separately in sign language into spoken language. For example, some ASL interpreters say CHA and PAH! Another example is that the ASL language of TRAIN-GONE was published as a book title, Train Go Sorry: Inside a deaf world, by Leah Hager Cohen. However, one last example is the ILY sign, used around the world by hearing and deaf people as a virtually universal gesture.
Myth Seven: Sign language must be eradicated.
Sign language represents cultural knowledge, similar to the languages of Native American Indians. It also has its advantages. Navajo Code Talkers used their native language to communicate vital war plans during World War II. Similarly, people can communicate using signs when oral communication is not desired, practical, or feasible. For example, the signals could be used in covert operations underwater or in outer space. Audio technology is necessary to support spoken language in these situations and its use could reveal your identity.