Deaf researcher studies emergence of new signed language in Mexico

Summarized by Rachel Cain, staff writer

When Lynn Hou, a deaf graduate student studying linguistics at the University of Texas at Austin, visited her colleague in Mexico, she noticed a variation to the regular form of Mexican Sign Language. This new language, which she calls “Chatino Sign Language,” includes some different signs from Mexican Sign Language and enables those who use it to communicate and interact with hearing people who may not be fully fluent in Chatino Sign Language.

This new sign language is particular to the Oaxaca region of Mexico. Hou has received a $15,000 research grant from the National Science Foundation to return to the Oaxaca region to further investigate the language. So far in the research, Hou and her colleagues have determined that there are signs in Chatino Sign Language for negation similar to those used by other deaf people in Mexico; however, the signs are more systematized in Chatino Sign Language.

“We have a natural situation, something that could not be replicated in a laboratory setting, where the children are acquiring a young language and are most likely contributing to the structure of the language by creating more signs,” Hou said.

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