Children creating core properties of language: evidence from an emerging sign language in Nicaragua.

Bibliographic Collection: 
MOCA Reference, APE
Publication Type: Journal Article
Authors: Senghas, Ann; Kita, Sotaro; Ozyürek, Asli
Year of Publication: 2004
Journal: Science
Volume: 305
Issue: 5691
Pagination: 1779-82
Date Published: 2004 Sep 17
Publication Language: eng
ISSN: 1095-9203
Keywords: Adolescent, Adult, Child, Cohort Studies, Deafness, Gestures, Humans, Learning, Linguistics, Movement, Nicaragua, Sign language

A new sign language has been created by deaf Nicaraguans over the past 25 years, providing an opportunity to observe the inception of universal hallmarks of language. We found that in their initial creation of the language, children analyzed complex events into basic elements and sequenced these elements into hierarchically structured expressions according to principles not observed in gestures accompanying speech in the surrounding language. Successive cohorts of learners extended this procedure, transforming Nicaraguan signing from its early gestural form into a linguistic system. We propose that this early segmentation and recombination reflect mechanisms with which children learn, and thereby perpetuate, language. Thus, children naturally possess learning abilities capable of giving language its fundamental structure.

DOI: 10.1126/science.1100199
Alternate Journal: Science