Saturday, March 2, 2013

Sign language in Hawaii

Hawaii's sign language may die out. There is only a small group of deaf islanders who are still abel to use it, according to researchers at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. They say Hawaiian Sign Language developed about 200 years ago, in the early 1800s. A letter written in 1821 letter to Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet from a protestant missionary makes reference to it. Only about 40 people are known to still use it - and most are over the age of 80. Out of 100 words, researchers found only 20 HSL signs were the same as their counterparts in American Sign Language. There are structural differences as well. For instance, in ASL adjectives come before nouns, but in HSL the noun comes first. The researchers will present their findings tomorrow at the 3rd International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation in Honolulu. They plan to publish three textbooks on HSL along with a dictionary. Read more about Hawaiian Sign Language in a University of Hawaii news release about the research here.

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