Beyond the Book: Background information when reading Talking Hands

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Talking Hands

What Sign Language Reveals About the Mind

by Margalit Fox

Talking Hands by Margalit Fox
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2007, 368 pages
    Paperback:
    Aug 2008, 368 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Lee Gooden

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Did you know?

  • Sign languages are not created for the deaf, and are not visual renditions of oral languages. They have complex grammars of their own, can be used to discuss any topic, from the simple and concrete to the lofty and abstract, and evolve spontaneously wherever deaf people are gathered together for a period of time.
  • Deaf people, and thus signed languages, must have existed through the course of history but the first historical records are from the mid 18th century. Right up to the early 20th century, sign language was considered inferior to spoken language and, today, the deaf communities in many countries still battle to have their language officially recognized.
  • In the USA, many individual states have laws recognizing American Sign Language (ASL) as a "foreign language" for educational purposes. ASL is used by up to half a million people in the USA and Canada.
  • Interestingly, ASL and British Sign Language, though both used in English-speaking countries, are mutually unintelligible. A deaf American will actually have an easier time understanding a deaf Frenchman because ASL is historically descended from French Sign Language.

Margalit Fox is a reporter for The New York Times. She holds a bachelor's and master's degrees in linguistics from Stony Brook University and a master's degree from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She lives in Manhattan with her husband, the writer and critic George Robinson. Talking Hands is her first book. More at BookBrowse.


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Article by Lee Gooden

This article was originally published in September 2007, and has been updated for the August 2008 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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