Introduction to Sign Language

Research Topics

How do different groups use sign language?
Chimpanzees and Signing
How Cochlear Implants effects the deafs use Sign Language

What is sign language?

Sing language is defined by Merriam-Webster as being a system of hand movements used for communication especially by people who are deaf.

Importance of Sign Language

Sign languages importance to psychology derives from the desire to communicate, teach, and understand when regular means of communication are not possible. Years of development has given the deaf community to an effective communication system within American Sign Language. Amazingly we have been able to teach chimpanzees and babies how to sign. Without the ability to sign with special interest group there would be virtually no means of understanding or communicating ideas.

Where/when/why/how did sign language originate?

  • One can speculate that sign language has been used since the beginning of humanity, before spoken language.
  • Hearing and deaf people alike both use hang gestures to communicate things.
  • During the Renaissance (c. 14th-17th century) many scholars were attempting to educate the deaf. 1771 the first public free deaf school was established by Abbe Charles Michel de L’Epee. Deaf children eager to learn came from all across France.
  • These deaf children all had signs they used and L’Epee learned these signs and developed Old French Sign Language.
  • Sign language has further developed throughout the years into the most common form, American Sign Language.

Fun Facts

  • Abbe Charles Michel de L’Epee is known as the “Father of the Deaf”.
  • Heather Whitestone was the first deaf woman to win the Miss America Pageant.
  • There are approximately 22 million hearing-impaired persons in the U.S.
  • Washoe was the first chimpanzee to break the language barrier.
  • Washoe learned more the 150 ASL signs.
  • Deaf people have safer driving records than hearing people.
  • William Hoy of the Cincinnati Reds invented the hand signals for strikes and balls
  • When Beethoven composed his ninth symphony, he was profoundly deaf.
  • On average deaf people live longer then the hearing.
  • Deaf people develop keener senses of observation, feeling, taste and smell to compensate for their loss of hearing.


Sign language in Chimpanzees

-Why Focus on Chimpanzees?

Although Gorillas, Orangoutangs, and Dolphins certainly have an argument, Chimpanzees are widely considered to be the smartest animal after the human race. Along with their intelligence, Chimpanzees use of hands is very prominent. Unlike most animals, Chimps have the ability to use man mad instruments with great skill. When teaching a language, verbal or not, sociability is thought to be a vital piece necessary for learning. Much like a dog, Chimpanzees are very sociable, making them a perfect fit for the teaching of sign language.

-Importance to Psychology

Chimpanzees along with the Bonobo, are Humans closest living relatives. Just a quick glance at either of these species and many similarities can be found in both their body and behavior. Believe it or not but according to DNA tests, Chimps and Humans share 98.8% percent of their DNA. Teaching Chimpanzees sign language could have many positive outcomes and learning experiences dealing with the psychology of Humans, and our closest living relative. Being able to communicate and in many ways pick the brain of Chimps may tell us, as humans, a lot about our race and how we came to be the way we are today.

-Common Theories

The theory that Chimpanzees along with other apes, are able to communicate through American Sign Languege(ASL) has been tested for years, and is making continued progress as days go bye. Born in 1965, the first chimp to try to use ASL was a female chimp called Washoe. Washoe learned approximately 150 signs in six years time in Washoe Nevada. She was very fluent with words such as; play, food, and tickling. During her time in Nevada, Washoe who had become a mother actually began to teach her own son “Loulis” American Sign. Though not a Chimpanzee, the Gorilla Koko, at the Gorilla foundation in northern California learned ASL at the age of one year old. Koko has learned over 1000 signs and understands 2000 signs. Koko has recently grown famous for an instance in which she was alone in her habitat, and ripped a sink out of the wall. When caretakers asked Koko who committed the sink destruction she was quick to point the blame at her pet cat. In other words, much like Humans often do. Koko lied.

Sign Language with Cochlear implants

  1. What exactly do cochlear implants provide?
  • Cochlear implant technology provides deaf children with “access” to sound. Observation and research indicates there is no “single profile” of deaf children with cochlear implants and that spoken language outcomes are extremely varied. Children obtaining cochlear implants have a range of pre-implant characteristics and post-implant expectations. While some cochlear implant users/students become proficient spoken language communicators, there are others for whom this is not the case. While cochlear implants may provide significant quantitative and qualitative benefits, it may not necessarily provide full access to spoken language for all children. Some children may start out using sign language as a foundation to early language development, with sign use diminishing as spoken language skills emerge. Some children may continue to utilize a combination of sign and spoken language. For young children, cochlear implant surgery does not typically occur until approximately 12 months of age. By the time the speech processor of the implant is turned on and the child has even a brief opportunity to access quality sound, at least 14-15 months of prime language learning time has passed*

Baby Sign Language(click to view page)

Instructor Feedback

Draft #2

Your peers have added some good comments. the biggest thing you need to do is add content to the sections on this page; what you have is rather insubstantial at this point. specifically:

  • Your introductory section is still rather incomplete. I like that you are including general information about sign language, but you also need to introduce the purposes of this group's project.
  • your second two sections are rather undeveloped - you should elaborate a lot more on why these are important topics. How you do this is dependent on the focus of the whole project. For example, you could discuss how primate sign language compares to human sign language linguistically; or, you could discuss what effect it has on primates' cognition.
  • you haven't cited the sources of most of your information—this is a big problem! For example, the cochlear implant section includes a lot of text that is exactly quoting or closely paraphrasing sources (easily findable via google).

Evan Bradley 2013/12/06 18:50

Draft #1

You have added some good content here. Here are the most important suggestions I have:

  1. add an introduction–this will give more context to what you have written.
  2. get more sources of information, especially scientific studies. You currently only have one!
  3. add some information for the other subtopics in your outline, or eliminate them

Evan Bradley 2013/11/07 14:17

Outline Feedback

Hi Group! Here are some tips on how to proceed from here:

  1. Organize the project around a central question(s) you are trying to answer, or phenomenon you are trying to explain. Right now, you just have some topics, but haven't explained how they are related
  2. Find some sources. This might help you with the first part.
  3. check out the other section on sign language. You may incorporate some of this material, but your project should add something new and interesting.

Evan Bradley 2013/10/19 12:54

Bilingualism feedback


1. organization Should you give the research question a heading? I though it would be helpful to put the introductions in one heading and the research question all under a “research questions” heading. 2. Clarity As far as clarity goes, anyone can understand what message you guys are trying to pass across, the information is clear enough, and that is a plus.

3. Content

  • the content of this page looks like it is coming together. Should you omit the use of “I” and “we” so the page can be less informal.
  • you obviously more sources, which we think you are still working on.
  • please do proof read the page so it can be more understandable.

Overall you need headings, and more sources to make the page a little bit more organized. — Afolashade Busari 2013/11/11 15:44

  • Organization: The page overall is looking well organized, and it is easy to see what your topics are, and where the information for the topics are.
  • Content: The information given is seems to be on point with your head topics, and they do not stray way from the original head topic.
  • Clarity: Overall the content is clear and concise. However, the only thing I would change is the way some of the information is worded because I had trouble reading it at times.
  • Organization: This page is well organized, and it is easy to see where you guys are headed with the rest of the Wiki page.
  • Content: In terms of content, I would suggest adding more information on each topic concerning sign language and possibly omitting personal pronouns, other than that, the content provided thus far is pretty good.
  • Clarity: It is fairly clear what each topic is about, but as suggested prior (by Megan) possibly change some of the wording in each area of the page for easier comprehension of the different aspects you guys provided.
  • Content: As already mentioned before, I feel like references section of this page is still in working progress. I also feel like the research questions are interesting, especially “baby sign language”. I've actually seen parents communicate with babies through baby sign language, which is pretty neat! I look forward in learning more on baby sign language through your wiki page!
  • Clarity: I agree with everyone's comment on clarity. I feel like your page is very clear on what your research is on.
  • Organization: I like the way you guys organized your page. I like how you guys started off your topic with a research, which was then followed by the defining baby sign language.
  • Comment: Overall, I feel like you guys picked an interesting topic that would help us understand using sign language to communicate with babies.
Feedback #2/ Therapy Group

Content: So far the content seems good, you have stated the research questions you want to answer but I think at this point more of the questions should get answered. I think once all of the information is added the page is going to be great!

Clarity: The questions are clearly stated and the information you have added for each question is explained well with easiness to understand. I like how you guys are tapping into different aspects of sign language such as with infants and chimps, I look forward to finding out about these topics because it is something I do not know of.

Organization: I like how the page is organized, it is easy to read and understand and I think everyone is doing a great job!

From: Toniann Chero

Jacqueline Robertson: I think that this page looks really good. It is well organized. Sign language is a really interesting topic, it is also really broad but the subjects within your topic are really good. Over all I think that everyone did a nice job.

Your page looks so good! It's very readable and well organized. Maybe go more into detail with answering your research questions. But really, it looks great, I like the photo. Good job so far.

By: Hannah Marshall

Bridget Friel

  • Content: 3 Questions were presented and answered regarding the topic along with references. Good focal point for a reader.
  • Clarity: Clear and to the point. No room for misunderstanding. Except with layout (see organization suggestion below).
  • Organization: The layout presented 3 questions with answers and a reference section. I think the “fun facts” should have been after the section on “Who uses sign language?” This breaks up the question too much since you present the question but do not answer it right away and instead interrupt the thought with “fun facts.”