sign language in Taiwan

A group of scholars at National Chung Cheng University (Guólì Zhōngzhèng Dàxué) have compiled a large reference book on Taiwan Sign Language and created a related Web site, according to the Taiwan News. The newspaper labeled the work “the world’s most comprehensive sign language reference book.” Although I’m not sure I’m ready to believe that without more details, the work does sound important. Here are some excerpts from the article:

[Professor] Tai [Hau-yi] explained that sign language is more than hand gestures – it is a multi-sensory communication tool with its own set of grammar and syntax rules. Moreover, it is the native tongue of many hearing-impaired people as well as of hearing children born into non-hearing families, he added.

Many people have the misconception that there is a universal sign language, [Professor Jane] Tsai said.

“But because languages are culturally-based, each country has its own sign system and within each system, there are various “accents” among the regions of the country.” Tsai explained.

She said that to accommodate all the variations in TSL, the reference book and online dictionary provide video clips for signs from northern and southern Taiwan….

“It is important to demonstrate how to make the signs because sign language is more than speaking with your hands. It involves facial expressions and body movements such as raising of the eyebrows and lip-mouth motions to convey the speaker’s intent,” said Tai….

Tai said in Taiwan, most parents of hearing-impaired children prefer to lip-read than to sign. By robbing these children the rights to speak their natural language, the parents are doing them a disservice, he said.

“We understand why the parents want their children to learn how to lip read, but since Chinese is a tonal language, it is very difficult for kids to perfect lip-reading skills,” Tai explained….

According to the latest 2005 statistics from the Ministry of the Interior, there are 98,206 hearing-impaired people in Taiwan.

source: Academics launch most comprehensive sign-language book, Taiwan News, November 25, 2005

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3 thoughts on “sign language in Taiwan

  1. Professor Tsay has informed me that Academia Sinica will publish the Mandarin version of the reference grammar next year, with the English version to follow. The Taiwan Sign Language “digital dictionary,” which will be available in both English and Mandarin, is scheduled to go online in the spring.

    I hope to add more details as they become available.

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