Book review : A first of its kind


Shilu Sharma’s ‘Origin, development and structure of Nepali sign language’ is the first research-based book dealing with the history and structure of Nepali sign language and has opened up the door to further research. This book will definitely call the attention of those who want to research in this field. Earlier signs used by deaf were considered something done for the sake of communication or expression. However, Sharma’s book tries to make a point that sign language also has its own structure like other spoken languages. In developed countries many advances have taken place in the field of sign language like opening of schools

and colleges. Much research has also been done in this field. In the last two decades of the

20th century, the development of sign language reached new horizons worldwide. However, the history of Nepali sign language is not that old because it has no relation with the spoken Nepali language. It was only after 1966 that a first dictionary of sign language was published. After 1988, much has been achieved in the field of Nepali sign language.

Being a dissertation published with some variations, the book is in the format of a research paper and is divided into five chapters. The first two chapters give a general view of the origin of sign languages in the world and when and where these took place. From the third chapter onwards, the author enters into the subject matter and deals with the origin and development of Nepali sign language. The book explains that hand shape, hand movement and hand location play an important role in producing sign alphabets which are basically divided into two broad categories -one handed and two handed alphabets. The book also includes charts showing the various symbols produced through hand location. Another important thing that the book speaks about is the localisation, imitation and imagination used while producing signs. Sign languages have also received a wide influence from each other, many being derived from other sign languages.

The book highlights the fact that sign language was used before the spoken language. Even those who use spoken language also use sign language for convenience. For example, police, army, pilot and drivers communicate through sign language. Dancers also use body language for self-expression. The author, herself, has been working as an interpreter for a long time.

She learned the language, used it and researched on its theoretical background and structure before writing the book.