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Talking Hands: What Sign Language Reveals About the Mind (edition 2008)

by Margalit Fox

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129493,299 (3.93)11
Member:SmartDogs
Title:Talking Hands: What Sign Language Reveals About the Mind
Authors:Margalit Fox
Info:Simon & Schuster (2008), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 368 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:body language, communication, cognitive science

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Talking Hands: What Sign Language Reveals About the Mind by Margalit Fox

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There's a village in Israel where there are so many deaf people that everybody uses sign language. Because the language started there rather than being brought in by other deaf people, linguists are studying the people who speak it to understand how humans accumulate language.

This is a fascinating book about this village, language, and the history of linguistics and of sign. She alternates chapters about the work videotaping and studying the villagers with facts about how sign came to be seen as an actual language rather than simple mime. ( )
  piemouth | Jan 9, 2014 |
Half of this book is the story of a group of linguists during a three-day field-studies visit to the village of Al-Sayyid. The village is interesting to linguists because a lot of deaf people were born and raised there (about 4% of the population) - and this is the third generation of deaf inhabitants. The villagers have developed an indigenous sign language, and both deaf and hearing people there use it. So, it is a relatively young language.

The other half of the book is a history of signing as it was recognized as a language system in its own right, and what sign languages tell researchers about language and the mind. It also talks about how pidgin languages arise, how the next generation of children turn that into a creole language, and so on. There is an explanation of the Forbidden Experiment (that is, the supposed way of learning about the acquisition of language by isolating children without any language, until they invent their own). But for deaf children, that is a situation that does happen occasionally. And it seems to have happened in this village, 3 generations ago.

It is a decently fast read, it talks clearly about the current state of language and mind studies, and the tale of studying language in the field, in the village of Al-Sayyid, is interesting. Recommended. ( )
  EowynA | Jul 13, 2010 |
I learned a lot about language, both sign and spoken, by reading this book. I especially found the chapter on the brain very interesting as linguists learn how signers perceive signs as language and not just movements through space. ( )
  krin5292 | Jul 12, 2009 |
This book is seemingly about an isolated Bedouin village in Israel where most of the residents are deaf (due to genetics and intermarriage). Therefore, their sign language has apparently developed on its own without outside influences.

I had hoped to learn more about the cultural aspects of the people of this village--their day-to-day lives and that they are Arabic/Muslims in Israel. But rather, this book focused far more on the linguistics of sign language--and actually emphasized the linguistics of American Sign Language over sign language in general.

I would recommend this book for people who are interested in the linguistics of Sign Language (or linguistics in general), but not for people who are interested in the cultural aspects of either this village, or of deaf culture in general. The author does not totally ignore cultural aspects; it's just that she focuses more on linguistics. ( )
  ValerieAndBooks | Dec 12, 2008 |
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Book description
Though marketed as an insider look at an isolated sign-language-speaking Middle-Eastern village, this book is much more a history of sign language. The author's foremost interest is in PROVING that sign language is, in fact, an actual language, rather than a series of mimetic gestures. Though extremely interesting, at times Fox is a bit repetitive; I felt I was reading a disseration rather than a journalistic endeavor. In the end, the book's "payoff" - the concluding description of the field work done in the Middle Eastern village - is only four pages long. Don't read this book to learn specifically about the community featured on the cover; read it to learn about sign language: its history and its unique linguistic features.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0743247124, Hardcover)

Imagine a village where everyone "speaks" sign language. Just such a village -- an isolated Bedouin community in Israel with an unusually high rate of deafness -- is at the heart of Talking Hands: What Sign Language Reveals About the Mind. There, an indigenous sign language has sprung up, used by deaf and hearing villagers alike. It is a language no outsider has been able to decode, until now.

A New York Times reporter trained as a linguist, Margalit Fox is the only Western journalist to have set foot in this remarkable village. In Talking Hands, she follows an international team of scientists that is unraveling this mysterious language.

Because the sign language of the village has arisen completely on its own, outside the influence of any other language, it is a living demonstration of the "language instinct," man's inborn capacity to create language. If the researchers can decode this language, they will have helped isolate ingredients essential to all human language, signed and spoken. But as Talking Hands grippingly shows, their work in the village is also a race against time, because the unique language of the village may already be endangered.

Talking Hands offers a fascinating introduction to the signed languages of the world -- languages as beautiful, vital and emphatically human as any other -- explaining why they are now furnishing cognitive scientists with long-sought keys to understanding how language works in the mind.

Written in lyrical, accessible prose, Talking Hands will captivate anyone interested in language, the human mind and journeys to exotic places.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:41:56 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Documents life in a remote Bedouin village in Israel whose residents communicate through a unique method of sign language used by both hearing and non-hearing citizens, and offers insight into the relationship between language and the human mind.

(summary from another edition)

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