Sign Language Pioneer Dies

Ursula Bellugi, the first to demonstrate that ASL is a true language, has died at the age of 91.

Credit: Salk Institute


Bellugi's research focused on how the brain processes language. She proved it is just as complex, abstract and systematic as spoken language, reports the New York Times. A leading researcher at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies for nearly 50 years, she studied the linguistic structure and neurological basis of American Sign Language.


In an interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune in 2015, she was asked why she kept working into her 80s. Bellugi said:

“My work is a joy. I have a passion for this. I don’t know how to explain it any other way.”

Salk President Rusty Gage is quoted in a news release as saying:

“All of us at Salk are grieved by the loss of Ursula Bellugi. She leaves an indelible legacy of shedding light on how humans communicate and socialize. The humanity and compassion she brought to her work was truly special and our community will miss her dearly.”

Bellugi died in San Diego on Sunday.