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New Zealand Sign Language and the Aim of Total Communication for the Deaf

Marianne Ahlgren

New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) is a true and unique language. Like any human language it transmits information efficiently,
using, in its case, great economy of movement rather than sounds. It is not English, but it does not interfere with the deaf person's knowledge and use of English. In fact there have been so many misconceptions about sign language in the past that it is perhaps best to pause here and describe what it is not. New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) is not miming ideas; it is not 'ad hoc' gestures, nor do deaf people make it up as they go along; it is not a system invented by hearing people to help deaf people speak; it is not a natural or instinctive system; it is not finger spelling; it is not a universal sign language, and it is not the Australia/New Zealand teaching aide called Total Communication' (TC).

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