In-Reply-To: <[log in to unmask]> Have you read "The Language Instinct" by Stephen Pinker. I believe it has been discussed here in the past. His view (his thesis even) is that human children are born with an innate ability to learn languages, with a mind that is already "programmed" to recognize and reproduce patterns, i.e. to "organize symbols in an orderly way". I don't know enough about current linguistic theory to know how controversial his views might be (or even if they're new at all) but they seem to fit in nicely with what I've read about evolution (Richards Dawkins, Steve Jones[*]). If this is so then it is hardly surprising that deaf children develop some kind of language. It is more surprising that the languages should be similar (though, as I recall, Pinker suggests that the "programming" might be such as to predispose children to respond to some patterns more than others). I'm sure we'd all like to know more about the structure of these languages and the ways in which they are similar! There was a dreadful time when people refused to accept sign language as full languages (similar to people who imagine that Eo and other con-IALs somehow aren't "real languages"). The result of this was that children were punished for using sign language and forced to struggle with spoken language. Since it is likely that the ability to learn a first language atrophies after a certain age this did incalculable damage to the deaf people affected. Now people understand that sign languages are in fact as sophisticated as spoken languages and with some interesting features of their own. I believe that some sign languages show features that are not present in the language of the "host community" though found in other spoken languages. > The findings do not suggest that there is a universal language that > perhaps could be used to unify all the world's different languages The search for linguistic universals has been a kind of Holy Grail for linguists. Perhaps someone would like to summarize the current state of the art. (I read a very interesting book, "Georgian Syntax" (A. Harris), that used some postulated universals as a basis for analysing the structure of Georgian. "Georgian -- A Learner's Grammar" is my current bedside book.) Good news for you guys! I've got a job, so I won't have time to inundate you with long postings! Hope I can still lurk on the list though. -- jP -- [*] I am that bugbear of the American religious right, a "liberal humanist"; thank God we don't have a religious right in this country -- yet at least! I have been known to call my "religion" Darwino- Dawkinsism.