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The article in the first part investigates the different coding strategies used by deaf signers in short term memory. The deaf signers lack the use of the phonetical-acoustical coding but they are capable sometimes to use the articulatory code. It becomes also clear that it is possible to use the signs efficiently as a code if the presentation of the items is in the same modality. The use of the signs in short term memory tasks depends on the abilities and linguistic competencies of the deaf signers. Despite the difference in short term memory span, hearing speakers and deaf signers have comparable working memory resources during language use, indicating similar abilities to maintain and manipulate linguistic information online. The auditory system is known to be highly efficient in retaining the order of occurrence of sounds. It is possible that speakers and signers may encode order information in quite different manners, speakers relay predominantly on temporal encoding and signers predominantly on spatial encoding. The sign language is a natural language and thus presents an opportunity to examine the neural organisation of language. In the second part of this article the author analyses the way the different sensorial modality can influence the neural representation of language. In his view there is a strong similarity between the regions activated within the left hemisphere by sign language in deaf individuals, compared with those activated by spoken language in hearing individuals. This may suggest that the cortical neural organisation of language processing does not depend on the different sensorial inputs but it is determined by the inner structure of the natural language.
Cognitive linguistics studies language as a reflection of human mind. Many cases of concept-formation are based on metaphor. Though most of the analyses point out to the presence of metaphor in natural languages, also sign languages involve this conceptual mechanism. Comparative analysis of linguistic expressions and signs for such fundamental concepts as time, support, illness, and others, proves that they reflect the same conceptual metaphors. This, in turn, supports the Generalisation Commitment and the Cognitive Commitment as fundamental hypotheses of cognitive linguistics.
The article discusses the specific devices for the deaf people, and sign language and deaf lore in the new technological situation. There are different types of hearing aids supporting the concept of the deaf as the disabled who must be cured from their deafness and taught to communicate orally with the hearing world. Today there are many modern devices that support the visual aid, which is more comfortable for the deaf. In fact, for the deaf who are more cultured there is nothing to be cured or healed. They are sceptical about the emergence of any new medical device (e.g., cochlear implant), which aim seems to be turning a deaf into a hearing person. The deaf have become adapted to new technologies for their community's needs and use their language, culture and folklore in new environments, such as the Internet. Various telecommunication devices have made the direct translation of sign language possible. The deaf have become used to communicating on cell phones, videophones, web cameras, etc. Sign language communities have discovered the virtual space to share their culture and folklore among the community members and with the hearing world. There are many examples of deaf lore available on the Internet, mostly from among American deaf folklore. Many stories have been translated from sign language into verbal language, but one can also encounter authentic sign language texts in the form of video clips, sometimes with voiceover or subtitles. Virtual space is a wonderful place to present deaf people's own folklore, which has also been called sign lore. Fine examples of sign lore are ABC stories and number stories, also some popular signs like 'I Love You' sign. Deaf comics are also part of deaf lore and culture. Deaf comics characterise the cultural side of deafness from a humorous viewpoint. New technologies offer the deaf good opportunities for expressing their culture and promoting sign language and also for being in touch with other community members and with the hearing people.
The article tries to describe phenomena that have so far largely not captured the attention of the Polish social sciences, that is the process of crystallization and manifestation of the cultural identity of the deaf. The controversies presented here concern mainly two questions. The first is whether the sign (visual-spatial) language may be treated on a par with a phonic one as another type of human language. Secondly, whether on the basis of this linguistic differentiation one can speak of the cultural and linguistic identity of the deaf. In such a case the destruction of the sense of hearing would not be treated as a physical disability, but as a characteristic of cultural otherness. Moreover, one can be culturally Deaf even if one can hear - the factors that constitute the minority Deaf Culture are above all: the use of sign language, the recognition of its primacy over the artificial systems of sign language and a phonic language as well as the protection of the cultural heritage of the Deaf in a society capable of audition where the Deaf are discriminated against and 'discultured' (for example by the system of education or the imperative of curing deafness by cochlear implants).
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