© Dale Crosby Close for Mosaic

The Briefing: Who decides how a young language grows?

A lot of research goes into our stories. Here are some of the resources we used to put together our story on emerging sign languages.

Emerging sign languages could reveal how all language evolved – but keeping these fragile languages isolated for research may mean the people who rely on them lose out.

Challenge yourself to dive deeper into this topic with videos, news articles and (if you’re up to it) some academic papers.

Videos

This video on the Bengkala community celebrates the way in which deaf members of society are treated as equals.

This video by Barnard College examines the emergence and evolution of Nicaraguan Sign Language.

In this online lecture, Dr Mairead MacSweeney, from the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, describes how the brain learns to process sign language.

In the news

This essay by lecturer Rebecca Roache argues that, setting aside sentimentality, there are good philosophical reasons to preserve endangered languages.

In this piece for Science, Catherine Matacic claims that new sign languages provide insight into how all languages evolve.

Psycholinguistics researcher Connie de Vos has argued that widespread deafness among the Bengkala community is due to a recessive gene that produces shortened hair cells inside the ear.  

In this feature, Carlos Oen describes attempts by First Nations peoples in Canada to preserve their indigenous sign languages, which are on the verge of extinction as American Sign Language becomes dominant. 

This piece on linguistic relativism explores how subtle differences across languages change the way we experience the world, shaping our perception of reality.

This article reveals 17 non-English words used to describe feelings which we don’t have equivalents for in English.

Academic writing

This study discusses emerging sign/village languages in Bali, Israel and Nicaragua, noting some of their common characteristics.

This 2012 paper investigates whether or not inbreeding is a cause of deafness.

More from Mosaic

Newsletter: 

Gaia Vince investigates where language is located inside the brain, and whether the meaning of a word determines its associated brain region.

In this piece on our evolving linguistic landscape, Gaia Vince reflects on the dialects humanity loses and gains every year.

Jemima Hodkinson explores the seemingly paradoxical experience of deaf people with schizophrenia ‘hearing’ voices.