Memory and Recall of Signs:
The Development of a Simplified Sign System


A simplified system of 500 signs is proposed to enhance the communication abilities of hearing, but nonspeaking, autistic, mentally retarded, and aphasic individuals, as well as their caregivers.  The system contains formationally modified signs originally collected from more than 20 formal sign language dictionaries, and invented signs for the specific needs of the special populations.  To evaluate the sign’s iconicity and ease of formation, each sign was presented to undergraduate student participants unfamiliar with sign languages.  The simplified signs were presented together with their English translation equivalents in 6 lists of 20 word-sign pairs.  The students were cued for sign recall by the English words immediately after each list was presented.  The students’ sign recalls were scored as perfect, essentially correct, wrong sign, or no response.  All signs recalled perfectly by at least 70% of the participants became part of a simplified sign lexicon.  Signs with more than 30% non-perfect scores typically were either formationally modified, redesigned, or discarded. 

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