I am not certain when I learned a little about sign language, probably from Steven Pinker’s, ‘The language instinct’. But it is absolutely fascinating, and its study — it seems to me — is yet another one of the almost endless arguments for letting academics play: the world in a grain of sand. There is a short article in this week’s Science:
The use of new parts also makes language more efficient: The youngest ISL signers can express themselves much faster than the oldest—153.2 signs per minute compared with 103.5 signs per minute.
The findings also show that social interaction is essential for language evolution. When a new generation establishes a system for signing, Sandler says, it stays more or less the same as its members age. Her work has shown that when young signers enter a community, they add complexity through experimentation with their peers in what she calls “a social game.” The more players, the more innovations.
You could the same for science in general or any branch of human culture. Which is why many of us worry.