Sign of the Times:

Kids Create a Language

* Kids are getting the credit for creating a language.

This isn't a language that's spoken or one that you will ever hear. It's Nicaraguan Sign Language.

NSL got its start when the government of Nicaragua, a small country in Central America, created its first school for deaf children in 1977. Before that, deaf people in Nicaragua didn't get to meet each other much.

But once the school got started, the kids started using gestures to communicate.

Ann Senghas, a researcher at New York's Columbia University, says that Nicaraguan Sign Language isn't just a series of gestures, but a real language. Languages follow certain rules, in which ideas get broken down into individual words. As new groups of students have learned NSL, they've created new gestures for specific words.

"It's . . . sort of upside-down, in the sense that the children lead the way. The children are the most fluent users of the language, not the older adults," Senghas said in the journal Science.

Fifty students started NSL in 1977. There are now about 800 deaf people in Nicaragua, ranging in age from 4 to 45, who use the language.

Kids created Nicaraguan Sign Language in 1977. Now about 800 people use it.