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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.