Nicaraguan Sign Language story continued…
they had developed independently – "eat," "drink," "ice cream" – in order to communicate with one another. From these simple signs the children developed a grammar, increasingly nuanced with each succeeding class of signers. Today the young Nicaraguan signers reportedly converse with a sophistication that rivals established signing systems around the globe.

Scholars searching for a "language organ," or proof that language is instinctive and independent of vocal cues, have been quick to capitalize on the story. According to Osborne, linguist Stephen Pinker described the Nicaraguan children as "absolutely unique in history." "It's the first and only time," he said, "that we've actually seen a language being created out of thin air." Professor Judy Kegl, the first sign-language expert invited by the Nicaraguan government to study the children, discourages the adoption of other idioms, "even," Osborne writes, "if that leaves the students unable to communicate with other deaf communities." "We don't want to kill indigenous language," Kegl told the Times.

Some experts have taken issue, however, with the ethics of isolating the Nicaraguan children. Felicia Ackerman, Professor of Philosophy at Brown University, wrote a letter to the Times registering her objection. Regarding Kegl's fear of "kill[ing] indigenous language," Ackerman writes, "Evidently, she would rather kill the life prospects of these children, by leaving them unable to communicate with the outside world."

Other scholars are raising questions about the linguistic validity, or purity, of ISN. William C. Stokoe, known by many as the father of American Sign Language linguistics, disagrees with researchers who find evidence of a "language organ" in the Nicaraguan children. In his letter to the Times (as yet unpublished), Stokoe cites the work of his colleague David Armstrong, whose book Original Signs strongly refutes such simplistic explanations of the development of language. Further, Stokoe highlights evidence in Osborne's own article that the children have in fact been exposed to established sign systems. Read Dr. Stokoe's letter.

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