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Left or Right, Sign or Spoken.

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Tiffany Birkle October 26, 2003 Linguistics 452 Left or Right, Sign or Spoken Have you ever wondered how our brains are able to do so many things at once? How our brains tell us to walk and talk and watch where we are going all at the same time? How we are able to produce language that is understandable by our fellow community members? Many linguists have made attempts at answering these questions about language and the brain. The brain enables humans to be capable of many kinds of language such as spoken and sign language. Different kinds of languages are classified according to certain characteristics including areas of the brain that are used and the linguistics of each language. Although sign language and spoken language are different in the way they are produced, one being from the mouth and accompanied by voice, the other coming from the hands, body and space around you, they are very similar linguistically. Both sign and spoken language have a phonological, morphological and syntactic system, which they both follow. They have different rules for these systems, but both follow there specific set of rules and a linguistic structure. With in the phonological systems of spoken and sign language both are made up of smaller components. Spoken being vowels and consonants, and sign being hand shapes, location and movement. ...read more.


In their article Sign language in the Brain, they attempt to answer this question by looking at the right and left hemispheres of the brain. They discuss many experiments that were done comparing those with right hemisphere- damage (RHD) to those with left hemisphere- damage (LHD) to see what each were able and unable to do. They tested those that signed and those that spoke with the abilities to comprehend making signs, and sentences, also to produce correct sounds and assemble appropriately the sounds. They wanted to see which part of the brain the left or right processes sign language, and whether they were the same as in spoken language. Hickok's article goes into detail trying to answer questions such as these. He discusses the right hemisphere and the left hemisphere, their jobs, what they are associated with and how each affects a person if it is damaged. When there is damage to the right hemisphere it rarely affects language, but when it does it is called aphasias. Moreover, the right hemisphere damage is associated mostly with severe visual and spatial problems, such as not being able to copy a line drawing (p.2 Hickok). This distinction lead researchers to believe that this is where sign language may be represented. The left hemisphere is said to be the verbal hemisphere, because those that have damage to this area have troubles, depending on the area, either speaking or comprehending speech. ...read more.


Since Hickok's article was written there has been more research done on the topic and they have found the deaf's process for communication is actually more similar to that of a hearing individual. The same brain scans that Hickok talked about have been used to show that similar areas are stimulated in deaf and hearing patients, when watching sign language or listening to speech. Researchers from Massachusetts, Boston suggest that the left planum temporale is not limited to processing sound, but that considerable overlap between regions of the brain are involved in proceeding spoken and signed language. So where does language actually derive from, and are signed and spoken language coming form the same areas? We still are not sure. We do know that they have many similarities, and they activate a lot of the same sites in the brain. From Hickok we can say that maybe sign language uses both the left and the right hemispheres, and spoken only uses the left hemisphere, but in order to prove this hypothesis we have to do more research and work from the results that we are given. Sign language and spoken language are quite similar but their similarities are much the same as the similarities between French and Italian, Russian and Chinese. They are all languages and all have some similarities and differences. We know that they all originate from the brain and that we need additional research in order to determine where language comes from. ...read more.

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