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I remember in one of my linguistics classes, a rather complex sign language (perhaps in Brazil, if I recall correctly) exists among, I believe, deaf children homeless children/orphans on the street. I believe that researchers, for quite a while, had much trouble figuring it out, but a breakthrough was made when they figured out that the signs we're patterned after the shape of streets on signs such as subway or bus maps.

Unfortunately, that is all that I can remember about the subject, and I don't even know how accurate my information is. And so I ask: where is this type of sign language used and what is it's story / what is unique about it?

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Perhaps you mean Nicaraguan Sign Language? I don't know about sign patterns, but that's a language of particular interest because of its spontaneous development, unlike many others.

  • This may be it... perhaps my brain manufactured that little bit about maps. – rintaun Sep 14 '11 at 14:53
  • I was also going to suggest NSL but I also had not heard the various factoids you mentioned but as Stas says it's interesting because it's believed to be a spontaneous invention rather than derived from another sign language. – hippietrail Sep 14 '11 at 17:55
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There are several examples of sign languages that have been invented de novo. Notably, Nicaraguan Sign Language, Al-Sayyid Bedouin Sign Language and other Village Sign Languages. In isolation, when deaf children are not exposed to either a signed or spoken language (which is remarkably common even in developed countries) they invent their own home sign systems. See here for a related question.

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