Summary and book reviews of Talking Hands by Margalit Fox

Talking Hands

What Sign Language Reveals About the Mind

by Margalit Fox

Talking Hands by Margalit Fox X
Talking Hands by Margalit Fox
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Aug 2007, 368 pages
    Paperback:
    Aug 2008, 368 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Lee Gooden
Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

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 -- really exists. 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.

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.

Introduction

The narrative sections of this book document a journey to a remarkable place: an isolated Middle Eastern village whose inhabitants "speak" sign language -- a language unlike any other in the world, witnessed by few outsiders and never before described. For the last several years, a team of four linguists, two from the United States and two from Israel, has been working in the village, documenting this extraordinary language and, little by little, deciphering it. In the summer of 2003, I was granted the immense privilege of accompanying the team on a three-day research trip to the village. To my knowledge, I am the only journalist from outside the region who has ever been there.

From the time the linguists first set foot in the village, they have striven ferociously to protect the privacy of the people they are studying. That is their job. Before they could even begin their fieldwork, the team spent many painstaking months earning the trust of the villagers. When ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

A fascinating read for linguists and lay readers alike written in a style that is both accessible and poetic...continued

Full Review (349 words).

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.

(Reviewed by Lee Gooden).

Media Reviews

The Wall Street Journal
We are well past the point in history where it is possible for a new spoken language to develop without the influence of other languages. What is so fascinating about Al-Sayyid Bedouin Sign Language (ABSL), as the village's sign language is officially called, is that it was born with no apparent influence from any language at all. ... For now, at least, a unique sign language integrates everyone into a single community, whether they can hear or not.

The New York Times - Leah Hager Cohen
I know of no other book in this field that covers so much ground so comprehensively and with such care.

Nature
Elegantly written. ... A masterly and accessible overview of sign languages and research into them over the past half century.

Publishers Weekly
[A] fascinating tour of deaf communication, clearly explaining difficult concepts, and effortlessly introducing readers to a silent world where communication is anything but slow and awkward.

Author Blurb Oliver Sacks, M.D.
Fox's book will be fascinating to anyone interested in the nature of human language or indeed in cognitive neuroscience.

Reader Reviews

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

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 ...

This "beyond the book" feature is available to non-members for a limited time. Join today for full access.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Read-alikes Full readalike results are for members only

More books by Margalit Fox

If you liked Talking Hands, try these:

  • The Kindness of Strangers jacket

    The Kindness of Strangers

    by Michael E. McCullough

    Published 2020

    About this book

    A sweeping psychological history of human goodness -- from the foundations of evolution to the modern political and social challenges humanity is now facing.

  • Fisherman's Blues jacket

    Fisherman's Blues

    by Anna Badkhen

    Published 2019

    About this book

    More by this author

    An intimate account of life in a West African fishing village, tugged by currents ancient and modern, and dependent on an ocean that is being radically transformed.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search read-alikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Find out more


Today's Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: The Secret Keeper of Jaipur
    The Secret Keeper of Jaipur
    by Alka Joshi
    Alka Joshi's The Secret Keeper of Jaipur is the sequel to her 2020 bestseller The Henna Artist and ...
  • Book Jacket: Seek You
    Seek You
    by Kristen Radtke
    In the first pages of Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness, Kristen Radtke's sophomore ...
  • Book Jacket: The Man Who Hated Women
    The Man Who Hated Women
    by Amy Sohn
    If debates over women's reproductive health seem stuck in an earlier era — the fact that birth...
  • Book Jacket: The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois
    The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois
    by Honorée Fannone Jeffers
    Honorée Fannone Jeffers' The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois explores the Black experience in ...

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
In Every Mirror She's Black
by Lola Akinmade Akerstrom
An arresting debut for anyone looking for insight into what it means to be a Black woman in the world.

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Last Chance Library
    by Freya Sampson

    Fans of libraries and heartfelt, humorous fiction won't want to miss this one!

  • Book Jacket

    Never Saw Me Coming
    by Vera Kurian

    "Fun, entertaining and hard to put down."
    The New York Journal of Books

Who Said...

Finishing second in the Olympics gets you silver. Finishing second in politics gets you oblivion.

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

Pull Y U B T B

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.