Thursday, May 28, 2009

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

First sentence:

"The house is a lighted island in a sea of gathering dark."


"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." -- from the inside flap

My thoughts:

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.

Date read: 5/28/2009
Book #: 30
Challenges: Dewey Decimal Challenge, Support Your Local Library Challenge
Rating: 3*/5 = good
Genre: Nonfiction

ISBN-10: 0743247124
ISBN-13: 9780743247122
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Year: 2007
# of Pages: 368
Binding: Hardcover
LibraryThing Page

1 comment:

Kailana said...

This sounds interesting. I went through a period where I was determined to learn sign language, but then I didn't have anyone to practice on, so it sort of fizzled...