Sunday, July 08, 2007

The geek that I am

To me, this is poetry: "Asthma, eczema, allergy and anaphylaxis are all part of the same syndrome, caused by the same 'mast' cells in the body, alerted and triggered by the same immunoglobulin-E molecules."

I'm halfway through the book but fear I may not have time to finish before I fly away. But I'm eating it up:
In one case, in Nicaragua, special schools for the deaf, established for the first time in the 1980s, led to the invention, de novo, of a whole new language. The schools taught lip-reading with little success, but in the playground the children brought together the various hand signs they used at home and established a crude pidgin language. Within a few years, as younger children learned this pidgin, it was transformed into a true sign language with all the complexity, economy, efficiency and grammar of a spoken language. Once again, it was children who made the language, a fact that seems to suggest that the language instinct is one that is switched off as the child reaches adulthood. This accounts for our difficulty in learning new languages, or even new accents, as adults. We no longer have the instinct.

--Matt Ridley, Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters
This makes me worry about how much better I can get my Korean at my advanced age, but I'm still holding out hope.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ooooh, I've been reading about this developing language for a long time, 'tis a Big Subject on the listserv for deafened people I belong to. Fascinating, no?
Years ago when I worked with high school kids at Gallery 37, they were really, really quick to develop a home sign vocabulary with me, and most of it was actually initiated by them. But I've had highly intelligent adult colleagues for over 12 years who STILL cannot grasp the fact that I NEED e-mail, it's my phone.
Still, I know lots of late-deafened folks who did not learn ASL till adulthood and are now fluent. Sadly, I am not among them. But it IS possible. It depends on the individual.