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Sign Language in Nicaragua

Sign Language

Imagine what it would be like to witness, first hand, the formation of a new language. Then imagine that language becoming the way in which thousands of deaf school children function in their society. Now imagine it was the deaf children themselves who created, out of necessity, a new language that became known as Nicaraguan Sign Language (known to experts as I.S.N., for Idioma de Signos Nicaragense).

The first wide-ranging effort to educate deaf children came after the 1979 Sandinista revolution, which saw the inauguration of new government. Hundreds of students were enrolled in two Managua schools, one in the neighborhood of San Judas and the other, later, was in Villa Libertad. These children were not isolated on an island but were raised in Managua city neighborhoods. However, they were not able to access more than 200 other known sign languages and their teachers were unable to help them. Managua's deaf children in these two communities started from scratch. They had no Spanish language acquisition, no grammar, no sentence structure, they just had each other and a series of rudimentary gestures otherwise known a mimincas in Spanish that they had developed within their families.

What come into being was a new sign language distinctive to their needs and formed by them to function as a means of communication and learning. Later, as linguists began to study and analyze this new language phenomenon they noticed the children themselves began to add verb agreements and other grammar conventions. The development of I.S.N has given scholars an opportunity to study the formation of languages and it has been widely reported on, argued about and caused quite a ruckus in the linguistics community.

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By Simon Gauci
I am freelance writer and researcher who resides in Quito *sept to June and Kilbride Ontario Canada *June to Aug*. I write fiction and...
28 Nov 2008




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