They have located and identified 40 users of the language over four of the islands, most of whom are over 70.
James Woodward, a Professor of Linguistics at the University of Hawai’i, says
What we find with Hawai’i Sign Language is that 80% of this basic vocabulary list is different. It means it cannot in any way be related to American Sign Language.
Hawai’ian Sign Language is believed to have originated in the 1800′s, long before American Sign Language. These are now the only two surviving sign languages in the United States.
The team are documenting Hawai’ian Sign Language with instructional videos, illustrating the distinct differences between Hawai’i Sign Language and American Sign Language. They hope that the older generation of HSL users will be able to teach younger deaf students to sign and keep the language alive.