Talking Hands eBook È Hardcover

Imagine a village where everyone speaks sign language Just such a village an isolated Bedouin community in Israel with an unusually high rate of deafness is at the heart of Talking Hands What Sign Language Reveals About the Mind There an indigenous sign language has sprung up used by deaf and hearing villagers alike It is a language no outsider has been able to decode until nowA New York Times reporter trained as a linguist Margalit Fox is the only Western journalist to have set foot in this remarkable village In Talking Hands she follows an international team of scientists that is unraveling this mysterious languageBecause the sign language of the village has arisen completely on its own outside the influence of any other language it is a living demonstration of the language instinct man's inborn capacity to create language If the researchers can decode this language they will have helped isolate ingredients essential to all human language signed and spoken But as Talking Hands grippingly shows their work in the village is also a race against time because the unique language of the village may already be endangeredTalking Hands offers a fascinating introduction to the signed languages of the world languages as beautiful vital and emphatically human as any other explaining why they are now furnishing cognitive scientists with long sought keys to understanding how language works in the mindWritten in lyrical accessible prose Talking Hands will captivate anyone interested in language the human mind and journeys to exotic places


10 thoughts on “Talking Hands

  1. says:

    Talking Hands is in part the story of the development of sign languages around the world and in part an exploration of the development of language and how that might have occurred in human history The little Bedouin settlement which is the main case study is a place where a sign language has arisen independently of other sign languages and its development has mirrored that of the development of spoken languages in ways which may reveal important things about the way the human brain handles languageMost of the neurological stuff wasn’t new to me and it’s definitely on a level any reader can appreciate it doesn’t go into massively technical terms or dissect vast case studies about the way injuries affect the brain etc The historical context of sign language and how people treated deaf and dumb people in the past was newer for me I wasn’t aware for example that for ages people — even deaf people — considered sign language inferior because it lacked the sort of grammar people recognised It was even suppressed in favour of cumbersome sign language which followed word for word the pattern of spoken language ignoring the potential for a spatial grammarMargalit Fox comes across as a science writer rather than a scientist making the book very accessible — either on its own or as a complement to in depth works about language like Steven Pinker’s I didn’t find it as fascinating as her book on decrypting Linear B but her writing is clear and concisely informative and I enjoyed reading the book I wasn’t always sure about the way she characterised actual people I wouldn’t find some of those descriptions very flatteringrespectful but she did write it with the approval and help of the team working in the Bedouin village according to her introduction and it’s never disrespectful about disability or intelligenceOriginally posted here


  2. says:

    Behind the bleak brown cover of Talking Hands is a book brimming with color and information Similarly a relatively new language a signed language that is unlike any other has been blossoming for the last seventy years amidst the sand in al Sayyid a Bedouin village in the Negev desert of southern Israel In this village of approximately 3500 a genetic form of deafness has been thriving as a result of frequent intermarriage Today about 150 villagers are deaf but these people do not live isolated marginalized lives a common fate for deaf people throughout history Rather they are fully functioning members of their society and they owe much of this freedom to al Sayyid Bedouin Sign Language ASBL a language that sprang up about seventy years ago when ten deaf villagers were brought together and consequently formed a simple contact pidgin This language was presumably very simple virtually without grammar an amalgam of gestures and signs mostly nouns thrown haphazardly together though we will never be certain all ten first generation signers are dead The second generation however were the real magic makers morphing their parent's grammarless gestures somehow into a simple yet fully functioning language Today the members of this second generation are in their thirties and forties raising the third generation of signers who range from infancy to young adulthood Not only the deaf children but also a large percentage of their hearing brothers and sisters learn ABSL as a first language So unwittingly these villagers have create a world that many deaf people have pined for where deaf people are on the same level as hearing people and no one is singled out because of their deafnessThis village as it turns out offers a fascinating even tantalizing opportunity for linguistics At least as long ago as Noam Chomsky many linguists have been lusting after something a thought experiment so taboo that it has come to be known as the Forbidden Experiment essentially put a bunch of kids together with no linguistic input save for perhaps a few basic words and see what they make This could help answer many important questions chief among them How are languages formed? What are newborn languages alike? and Just how fundamentally similar are languages? Al Sayyid has offered a natural opportunity to answer those questions without the risk of forming a roving pack of feral childrenThis book is the product of Margalit Fox a New York Times reporter who in 2004 decided to shadow a group of four linguists as they went on a research trip to al Sayyid The linguists' tools were basic just a laptop computer that showed a series of pictures and some video designed to elicit basic vocabulary and syntax respectively but the data they collect will surely keep them busy for the rest of their careers After the first chapter In the Village of the Deaf Fox spends the next chapter discussing sign language in general In the following chapters she follows the same pattern alternating between discussing ASBL in particular and signed language in generalABSL is of great interest to many academic disciplines and Fox at least touches on all anthropology psychology genetics physiology and of course the many aspects of linguistics In her attempt at revealing ABSL Fox discusses the results of so many scientific studies drops so many interesting tidbits she can't help but make her readers all a bit brighter And I couldn't help but write a blog post about some of them Already I see this review as rather wordy didactic than critical it is all Mrs Fox's doingReally this is a great book for anyone you need not know anything about sign language or even language in general It is a colorful fact filled book that never made me want to skim With this in mind and with the relative popularity of language books in the present day I can only wonder why this book has not found of an audience