TED's 31 days of Ideas - Day 6: The enchanting music of sign language

The enchanting music of sign language

By Sarah Parcak

Christine Sun Kim's art explores the similarities between American Sign Language and music. Once you watch her TED Talk, "The enchanting music of sign language," you'll never look at someone signing in the same way again. You'll find yourself forever entranced by their expressions and subtle movements.

When we think about communication, we tend to think about sound and ignore the non-verbal aspects. But how we say things often reveals so much more than the words themselves -- something I think about a lot when I'm traveling and communicating across languages. It's so interesting to learn from Christine, a fellow TED Fellow, about all the nuance contained within a sign. She shows how the simple emphasis of a gesture or a look in a signer's eye can completely change the meaning of the idea expressed. 

As an Egyptologist, I spend a lot of time studying hieroglyphs. There, too, a simple change in one symbol can transform its entire meaning. I see Christine's talk as a powerful showcase of the potency of symbols, in communicating ideas both simple and complex.