Andrew Leland’s fascinating piece in The New Yorker explores Protactile, a system of tactile communication that has evolved into a national movement for autonomy among DeafBlind people across the U.S.
Still, several linguists have come to believe that, among some of its frequent users, Protactile is developing into its own language, with words and grammatical structures that have diverged from those of A.S.L. “I am totally convinced that this is no tweak of A.S.L.,” Diane Brentari, one of the premier linguists of sign language, who teaches at the University of Chicago, told me. “This is a new language.” Clark believes that Protactile has the potential to upend centuries of DeafBlind isolation. “It’s an exciting time to be DeafBlind,” he has written. “The single most important development in DeafBlind history is in full swing.”