Nicaraguan Sign Language Projects, Inc.
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Projects Now and Future  Nicaraguan Sign Language Projects, Inc.

In the past, NSLP funded or subsidized salaries of Deaf teachers while they pursued formal teaching certificates.  The Nicaraguan Ministry of Education now directly employs the Deaf teacher trained by NSLP.  NSLP continues to cover living costs for a Deaf student who is pursuing teacher certification.

NSLP subsidizes the salary of the Deaf teacher at the government school.

OUTREACH PROJECT:  NSLP is not conducting outreach projects at this time, but continues to provide material support to other NGOs serving Deaf children in Nicaragua.

      a) Nicaraguan Sign Language Grammar on-line tutorials:  On July 13, 2014, we made available on YouTube our first tutorial, called Nicaraguan Sign Language Grammar Lesson 1.  This video runs 37 minutes and is presented in Nicaraguan Sign Language with English captioning.  (Spanish captioned version in production.)

      b) Publication in 2017 of the Second Edition of our Nicaraguan Sign Language Handbook.  This text explains in both Spanish and English many of the most important principles of the grammar and syntax of Nicaraguan Sign Language, and also features about 1,100 glossary entries divided into topics. 

NICARAGUAN SIGN LANGUAGE MANUAL, by James Shepard-Kegl, translated into Spanish by Bertha Simmons and Nadiezhda Urbina Lugo (published by Nicaraguan Sign Language Projects, Inc., second edition 2017):  Download several of the glossary sections below.


Use of three dimensional space is very important in Nicaraguan Sign Language.  Consider our example from the previous section:  “The butterfly flies to the flower.”


        The butterfly flies to the flower.  ISN word order: OSV

Here the signer physically signs the flower at a specific location – to her right.  Further, she turns her head and gazes at her hands.  Her eye gaze and head movement serve to cue us to focus upon and remember that location.  In the second sign, she needs both hands to make the sign for butterfly.  She places the butterfly slightly to her left.  Her head turns slightly left and her gaze shifts to the new location because she wants us to see what she is seeing.  Her butterfly literally moves across her chest toward the location of the flower.  She tracks its flight with her eyes, helping us to see in our own minds the route the butterfly is taking.  In the final sign, the butterfly alights upon the flower.   The signer’s eyes direct us to follow the moving figure classifier through the remainder of the flight until the small insect reaches the location of the ground.

The signer takes advantage of three dimensional signing space to convey direction and movement.

Our last two examples involved spatial verbs with classifier clitics that functioned as grounds.  Spatial verbs are not always this complex.  So long as the signer is using signing space to describe a three dimensional concept, the verb is a spatial verb.  Compare these two short sentences:


The man is waiting.

In this first sentence, the verb is describing an action, but does not show any direction nor a specific location in three dimensional space.  The verb is not a spatial verb. 

The man is walking in circles.

In this sentence, there is an antecedent subject ("man") and a figure classifier is a component of the verb.  However, there is no antecedent object and, therefore, no ground within the verb.  Nevertheless, the verb describes movement along a circular path.  Consequently, the verb is a spatial verb.

Let us examine the sign order of another complex sentence:

A man is walking and a car hits him.

There are several ways to translate this sentence from Nicaraguan Sign Language to English, but perhaps the closest translation divides the sentence into two clauses.  The important thing to remember is that English and Nicaraguan Sign Language grammar, and, for that matter, Spanish and Nicaraguan Sign Language, are quite different.  Sign for word translations rarely work.

This signed sentence contains four signs.  The first and second signs inform us that there is a man who is walking.  Is the first sign the subject of the sentence or do the first two signs together function as the object?

Note that in the second sign, the classifier (person-using-legs-walking) is made with the left hand, which is the hand usually reserved for ground signs.  In the third sign, the left hand has become stationary, with the right hand introducing the car.  The final sign is a spatial verb featuring the vehicle classifier as the moving figure which strikes the ground person-using-legs classifier.

.Therefore, we see that the walking man is the object of the sentence, and, as is generally the case with sentences with spatial verbs, the sign order is OSV.


Let us look at the third sign again.  The standard sign for “car” involves both hands mimicking the action of a driver who is grasping a steering wheel.  Sometimes, however, you can convey your message just as effectively using one hand if your other hand is somehow occupied.  Imagine that you are holding a shopping bag in your left hand while trying to hold a conversation in sign language.  Although your left hand is occupied, most of the signs you make with your right hand should be understandable, especially in context.  Linguists call this encumbered signing.  In the sample sentence, the left hand is occupied by its need to serve as the person-using-legs classifier.  The left hand at this point is stationary since the viewer needs to focus on the right hand.  We could say that the left hand is standing by for the moment.  (The linguistic term is topic perseveration.)  The left hand remains at its location in preparation to become the ground component of the final sign – the spatial verb.  Note that while the left hand is stationary, we understand that the man in reality is walking, and not standing, when the car strikes him.

The sign “car” is normally made with two hands.


Encumbered signing: In this case, the left hand needs to stand by to become the classifier clitic in the impending spatial verb.

 As always, when you are signing a sentence with a spatial verb sign, follow the moving figure with your eyes.  The moving figure classifier is the actor, and the ground classifier is located at the point (or points) where the particular action sequence will end. 

Read the facial features signs left to right.  The blue eye gaze (with an appropriate head tilt) follows the moving figure classifier (also in blue).  The signer's eye gaze (and head tilt) change to track the collision of the vehicle classifer with the stationary classifer clitic.

When signing a spatial verb with a source location or a goal location or both, your eyes must follow the moving figure.  This eye gazing is called smooth pursuit.



In the past four examples, we have considered sentences with the following verbs: walking-in-circles, climb-up, fly-to/land-on and crash-into.  In all four cases, these spatial verbs showed direction.  In the case of the boy climbing the tree, the verb showed both the starting or source location (base of the tree) and the ending or goal location.  With the butterfly, however, the source location was omitted.  We know our flying butterfly originated from somewhere else, but the signer wants us to focus on the flower.  Likewise, with the car collision, we do not really know where the car came from; we are directed to focus on the impact.

Spatial verbs that show direction are called directional verbs.  Directional verbs always show movement in three dimensional space.  Often, these verbs show source location, goal location, or both. 





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