Episode Description

While working at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif., the late cognitive neuroscientist Ursula Bellugi discovered that, much like spoken language, sign language was made up of specific building blocks whose assembly followed strict rules. Her subsequent discoveries about the complexities of sign language led to both linguistic breakthroughs and changes in the way deaf people felt about signing. Bellugi demonstrated that sign language is as rich and complex as any spoken language. Her work deepened our understanding of what it means to communicate as humans.

Ursula Bellugi
Ursula Bellugi - sign language


  • Nancy Frishberg


Samia Bouzid

Samia Bouzid has contributed to audio programs such as Duolingo’s French and Spanish podcasts, the BBC’s Short Cuts and LWC Studios’ 100 Latina Birthdays. She holds an M.A. in journalism from the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York and a B.S. in astrophysics from Rutgers University.


  • Keren Mevorach; photo credit: Salk Institute


Episode Transcript

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