Deaf cultures the same as other cultures? Sign languages linguistically and biologically equivalent to speech? Yes & yes!

Petitto (1994) explains that just like spoken languages, signed languages are not universal, as in having no single signed language used by all Deaf people in the world, are complex and rich in linguistic structures, and follow specific grammatical rules. Two signed languages, ASL and LSQ, illustrate these points. Users of a particular signed language form a particular cultural group whose beliefs, customs and attitudes are distinct from those of a cultural group formed by users of another signed language. Language acquisition studies on Deaf children show evidence that they learn a sign language in the same way the hearing children learn a spoken language. These findings show that language acquisition is actually based on the brain’s biological mechanisms to detect the patterning of a language an infant is acquiring, whether signed or spoken.

Are signed languages “real” languages? Evidence from American Sign Language and Langue des Signes Quebecoise Petitto Republished from Laura-Ann Petitto, Department of Psychology, McGill University; Please see Petitto’s published papers and abstracts here.

Keywords: ASL, LSQ, signed languages, language acquisition