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From:  Valerie Sutton
Date:  Fri Jul 3, 1998  9:56 am
Subject:  Dutch Museum Displays SignWriting

Fri, 03 Jul 1998 15:36:05 +0200
From: Inge Zwitserlood


Special SignWriting Display at the

Starting Friday 26 June (and lasting until February 1999),
the University Museum of Utrecht University (the Netherlands) hosts:


An exhibition on aspects of Sign Language

Until comparatively recently, educational environments and conditions for
acquiring sign language were far from perfect. In Europe during the first
half of this century, the use of sign language was often prohibited in
schools and institutions for the deaf, out of the noble but essentially
mistaken belief that learning to speak would be the deaf person's doorway to
Fortunately, these ideas are now considered outdated and detrimental to the
deafs' cause. In the Netherlands, Nederlandse Gebaren Taal is on the verge
of being officially recognized by the government as a minority language on
Dutch soil.

This exhibition is presented from the point of view that Sign Language is an
extremely `visual' form of language. It takes the opportunity the provide
general information about language, and languages, to a relatively lay
public, and emphasizes that sign languages are the natural languages of the
hearing impaired anywhere in the world. In a simple fashion, and by dint of
a number of specially developed games, it discusses some basic linguistic
notions such as the language faculty in the brain, the process of language
acquisition, and the building blocks of words and sentences. And it
addresses some common misunderstandings about sign languages: they are
neither completely `iconic' nor universal, they are not simply the
word-by-word signed counterparts of the spoken languages of the same
cultural community, that it has no literate form. Instead, it is shown that
you can say anything you like in it; perform poetry in them, make jokes, and
so on.

As you wander around, you are invited to play the language games, to test
your expression, to try to guess the signed translations of Dutch words, to
practice signing short stories and to call somebody by means of the
videophone. Also, there is a lot to see, e.g. the human brain, articulators
and perceptors of language. Examples of written forms of sign languages are
shown, viz. HamNoSys, SignPS, the Stokoe notation system and the most
elaborate of all, SignWriting. There is a short overview and comparison of
language acquisition in (hearing) children that are taught a spoken
language, children that are taught a signed language and chimpanzees that
are taught a signed language. Also, you can watch and listen to the
expression patterns of spoken languages: intonation.

"Kijk ! Taal" is a joint production of the Utrecht University Museum, the
The Hague Vi-taal Foundation (Tony Bloem and Ruud Janssen), and the Utrecht
Institute of Linguistics (Wim Zonneveld and Inge Zwitserlood).

Museum open: 11-17 hrs. daily (Sa/Sun 13-17 hrs.)
The Lange Nieuwstraat 106, where the museum is situated in a beautiful new
building in the Utrecht "Museum Quarter", is a 5 minutes walk from the
Utrecht Institute of Linguistics at Trans 10. From Trans, rather than turn
right towards the Inner City and the Dom Tower, turn left: this is the Korte
Nieuwstraat which inevitably spills into the Lange Nieuwstraat.
Utrecht is a 20 minute train ride from Amsterdam. The museum's location is a
20 minutes walk (or a 10 minutes bus ride) from the central railway station:
go through the Inner City towards the Dom Tower, then proceed as above.

Inge Zwitserlood


Valerie Sutton :-)

Sutton at the DAC
Deaf Action Committee For SignWriting
Box 517, La Jolla, CA, 92038-0517, USA
(619)456-0098 voice
(619)456-0010 tty
(619)456-0020 fax

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