News: Hawaiian Sign Language documented as a new language

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Linguists say they have determined that a unique sign language, possibly dating back to the 1800s or earlier, is being used in Hawaii, marking the first time in 80 years a previously unknown language — spoken or signed — has been documented in the U.S.

 

Researchers will formally announce their findings this weekend showing it’s not a dialect of American Sign Language, as many long believed, but an unrelated language with unique vocabulary and grammar. Only about 40 people, most in their 80s, are known to currently use Hawaii Sign Language, meaning the discovery comes just as the language is on the cusp of disappearing.

 

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Source: The Linguist List, issue 24.1205

 

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Written by josep.quer@upf.edu

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