The structure of the new language surprised

January 25, 2022

Al-Sayyid Bedouin Sign Language (ABSL) and japanese translator is an alternative language for a community of 3,500 people, some of whom are deaf. It has been in use for three generations. It appeared as a result of natural necessity and was not exposed to external influence. Other relatively new languages ​​are derived from related adverbs or those that have experienced a very strong influence of existing languages. Thus, ABSL provides researchers with a unique opportunity to study the principles of language development at an early stage.

At ABSL, scientists expected to find only a primary set of rudimentary gestures.

Shot of a team of colleagues having a meeting in a office

“But we were immediately blown away by how advanced the language was,” said Carol Padden, professor of communication theory at the University of California, San Diego. – This is not the result of situational impromptu communication, but a complex language with which one can exchange information not only in the “here and now” mode.

This language allowed scientists to get a real picture of laying the foundations of grammar.

The research team was extremely surprised that the sentences in ABSL have a dramatically different structure compared to other languages ​​in the region. Sentences in ABSL are built according to the following scheme: subject of action – object of action – verb, for example: “Woman giving an apple”. In other languages ​​of this region, as well as in English, the order is as follows: the subject of the action – the verb – the object of the action.

“The grammatical structure of Bedouin sign language does not show any influence from either the Arabic dialect spoken by the hearing members of the community, or from the sign language that prevails in the surrounding areas – Israeli sign language,” explains Padden. “Our findings support the theory that word order is one of the primary characteristics of a language and appears very early in its development.”

Bedouins are nomadic tribes. But they also lead a sedentary lifestyle. Al Sayyid is a village of 3,500 in Israel’s Negev desert. The two sons of the founder of the settlement were deaf. This feature is manifested in a child if it is embedded in the genetics of both parents. Deaf inhabitants of the village – today there are about 150 of them – are in all its corners.

“ABSL is the language of a whole community, both hearing and deaf,” says Padden. “It is passed down from generation to generation in families, and children know it, although no one teaches them specifically. This is the clearest known example of how language originates and develops. ”