Sign Language

There Is No Universal Sign Language

There are more than 100 different sign languages in the world, with new ones constantly emerging. An exact number is hard to pin down, because some sign languages are limited to small villages, communities, or even families. Others, such as American Sign Language, span entire countries. There is a variety of sign language called International Sign, but it is not as complex as a full language. Instead, it functions as a simplified way for Deaf people with different backgrounds to communicate.

Hear linguist Arika Okrent discuss how different "dialects" of sign language evolved on the Curiosity Podcast. Stream or download the podcast using the player below, or find the episode everywhere podcasts are found, including iTunes, Stitcher, and Gretta.

Wearable tech to decode sign language

Key Facts In This Video

  1. See how the word "sorry" looks different in different sign languages: 00:48

  2. See how the phrase "good job!" looks different in different sign languages: 02:01

  3. Watch speakers of Japanese, American, and French sign language demonstrate the differences between the languages in full sentences: 02:40

Written by Curiosity Staff July 15, 2015

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