Before 1980, deaf people in Nicaragua were isolated from each other and from formal education. When the first school for the deaf was established, children from around the country were brought together, many of them meeting other deaf people for the first time. Though they were initially meant to be trained in spoken Spanish and lip-reading, they brought the different gestures they had used to communicate with their families at home and created an improvised sort of sign-communication system with each other. This rudimentary system was turned by the next generations of students into a fully fledged, grammatically complete sign language known as the "Idioma de Señas de Nicaragua." Linguistic researchers began recording and studying the emerging language in 1986. They have been able to document, in real time, the birth of a language.
From "Pidgin" to Language
How Structure Is Made
New Insights About the Nature of Language
The Birth of New Sign Language in Nicaragua
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Written by Arika Okrent April 26, 2018
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