American Sign Language

For the discussion of language mechanics, grammar, vocabulary, trends, and other such linguistic topics, in english and other languages.

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American Sign Language

Postby Insanity's Partner » Mon Sep 29, 2008 4:33 pm UTC

I'm taking ASL instead of French, since I was a general failure at every spoken language I tried (Except French. I wasn't all that bad with French, actually.) and I thought it'd be great to try something different.

Anyway, I didn't see a thread for ASL, and I was just wondering if there's anyone out there in XKCDForumLand that is fluent in ASL?

It'd be nice if I could ask you for some help, but I don't believe it would do me any good if I can't see you. :P
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Re: American Sign Language

Postby Monika » Mon Sep 29, 2008 6:51 pm UTC

Sign language is actually very hard to learn.

I haven't learned any ASL, only some DGS - Deutsche Gebärdensprache, German sign language.

There is a system of writing it, which is not used very widely, but can probably also be used to describe ASL as well, or maybe they have their own system.
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Re: American Sign Language

Postby Qoppa » Tue Sep 30, 2008 6:43 pm UTC

I'd love to learn ASL, but sadly it's essentially impossible to learn from a book, meaning I would need to have someone teach me. Problem is, I don't know anyone who knows ASL, and none of the courses I can find look very promising.

One day maybe...

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Re: American Sign Language

Postby ZLVT » Tue Sep 30, 2008 11:32 pm UTC

Aye I'd do ASL as well. It'd be useful in loud places or where you don't want to be heard. Alas, nearly all SL's rely on facial expressions except ASL which has one or two other features I'm fond of (unimanual alphabet for one). It'd be so different and new, I want to learn. But try leanring ASL in australia. They all use Auslan here (British based) so it'd be somewhat a) difficult to learn and b) impossible to use

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Re: American Sign Language

Postby steewi » Wed Oct 01, 2008 1:13 am UTC

ZLVT wrote:Aye I'd do ASL as well. It'd be useful in loud places or where you don't want to be heard. Alas, nearly all SL's rely on facial expressions except ASL which has one or two other features I'm fond of (unimanual alphabet for one). It'd be so different and new, I want to learn. But try leanring ASL in australia. They all use Auslan here (British based) so it'd be somewhat a) difficult to learn and b) impossible to use

EDIT: yay 1000th post


I happen to know that Borders has a sign language book on special at the moment in the bargain area. I thought it was silly, because it was ASL and not Auslan, but it could be your thing...

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Re: American Sign Language

Postby ZLVT » Wed Oct 01, 2008 1:18 am UTC

yaaay, cheers...now if only I could rememebr how to get outside the house...
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Re: American Sign Language

Postby Chai Kovsky » Sun Oct 05, 2008 6:22 pm UTC

steewi wrote:I happen to know that Borders has a sign language book on special at the moment in the bargain area. I thought it was silly, because it was ASL and not Auslan, but it could be your thing...

Unfortunately, those books are amazingly unhelpful. I've studied ASL for the past two years because my best friend is deaf. I would recommend taking a class if at all possible. Barring that, take advantage of video dictionaries online to learn vocab. Unlike oral languages, signs are communicated very poorly in 2D depictions in books. You will mispronounce it if you try to learn from a book.

You should know how to fingerspell, of course, but don't rely on that. It's a crutch and you should try to move past it into real signs as soon as possible. When you don't know a word, pantomime. Facial expression is also a hugely important aspect of sign.

The thing about sign that you have to remember is that it is NOT a one-for-one substitution language. It has its own grammar and structure. Translating word-for-word simply won't convey what you're trying to say as eloquently in sign.

That being said, more and more of sign is shifting from ASL word order to pidgin (ASL signs in English word order). Partially this is due to the greater number of hearing people learning sign language, but also a new emphasis on literacy in the Deaf community (it's very hard to learn to read when your spoken language is written in an entirely different word order, grammar, etc). People will understand you no matter what word order you use, and when you know the signs, receiving word order from other people will matter less as well.

Almost all my friends sign to some degree and it's incredibly useful. In what other language can you talk with your mouth full?
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Re: American Sign Language

Postby ZLVT » Mon Oct 06, 2008 12:45 am UTC

Any sign languages that don't use facial expression?
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Re: American Sign Language

Postby Chai Kovsky » Mon Oct 06, 2008 1:39 am UTC

None that I'm aware of; it's a huge part of communication. My deaf friend says it's worse than speaking in a monotone (not sure how she compared the two; I'm guessing her interpreter was involved). My Boychik has a face of cement when he signs. As a hearing person, it's a little aggravating, but it's actually harder to understand what he's saying. A lot of your inflection is in your face in sign language—imagine trying to convey sarcasm with out it.

Interesting question, though. Why do you ask?
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kellsbells wrote:¡This Chai is burning me!
Chai Kovsky wrote:I can kill you with my brain.

That is all.
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Re: American Sign Language

Postby ZLVT » Mon Oct 06, 2008 2:32 am UTC

I'd always belived that signing was about hand movements, and I was never great with facial things. I'd always dreamed of a langugae where you could sign while wearing a skimask...for example <_<. The thought of mixing emotive expression with hand signals doesn't appeal to me, for some reason I just would prefer to be able to sign with hands alone. Granted I have no understanding of sign, but It's be aweosme to speak to one person and sign another about two different things, but the need for facial expression ruins that.
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Re: American Sign Language

Postby Chai Kovsky » Mon Oct 06, 2008 3:31 am UTC

Well, I certainly won't inquire into your motives for wanting a language to communicate through skimask. A bit too Manhunt for me.

Yeah, as I'm thinking about it, you can't even ask a question in Skimask Sign. ASL is like Spanish in that the only difference between "Tienes la motosierra" and "Tienes la motosierra?" is inflection (assuming you drop the pronouns). In the case of Spanish, the inflection's in your voice; in sign, it's through a raise of the eyebrows.

Also, I have tried to sign to one person and speak to another. My brain simply cannot process two different conversations and completely melts down. I think I need a more powerful processor.
Spoiler:
kellsbells wrote:¡This Chai is burning me!
Chai Kovsky wrote:I can kill you with my brain.

That is all.
superglucose wrote:In other words: LISTEN TO CHAI.
Delayra wrote:Yet another brilliant idea from Chai!

I <3 Pirate.Bondage!

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Re: American Sign Language

Postby Monika » Mon Oct 06, 2008 11:47 am UTC

ZLVT wrote:Any sign languages that don't use facial expression?

DGS = German Sign Language does not use any facial expression I am aware of.

In contrast to ASL, both hands are used for most signs.
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Re: American Sign Language

Postby Alias » Mon Oct 06, 2008 11:51 am UTC

i know a tiny bit of makaton.

its brilliant though, becasue of all the people i know, only me and the girl know it so we can use it for evil :)
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Re: American Sign Language

Postby Chai Kovsky » Mon Oct 06, 2008 3:43 pm UTC

Monika wrote:DGS = German Sign Language does not use any facial expression I am aware of.

My source is a bit tangential to the topic, but you'll find mentions of facial expression in DGS here (pdf). Also, to be slightly less academic, there's a YouTube vlog of a Swiss German man who is nevertheless signing in DGS. Note the facial expression.

I would be shocked if any sign language didn't have some degree of facial expression, since it's the root of inflection in the medium. It's where the tone of your voice comes from. It's not that sign has words that you say with your face, but your face reflects what you think about the words you're saying.

Edit: Further research indicates that there is a Swiss German derivative of DGS, but based on his tags I can't tell which he's speaking in the video. Either way, DSGS is closely related to DGS, and I doubt that facial expression is the differentiating factor between the two.
Spoiler:
kellsbells wrote:¡This Chai is burning me!
Chai Kovsky wrote:I can kill you with my brain.

That is all.
superglucose wrote:In other words: LISTEN TO CHAI.
Delayra wrote:Yet another brilliant idea from Chai!

I <3 Pirate.Bondage!

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Re: American Sign Language

Postby Monika » Mon Oct 06, 2008 7:34 pm UTC

Chai Kovsky wrote:
Monika wrote:DGS = German Sign Language does not use any facial expression I am aware of.

My source is a bit tangential to the topic, but you'll find mentions of facial expression in DGS here (pdf). Also, to be slightly less academic, there's a YouTube vlog of a Swiss German man who is nevertheless signing in DGS. Note the facial expression.

This man talks about something involving emotions and emphasizes them a lot. Watch for example this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aD8xcNYIYUA , the woman talks about a type of high school diploma. She moves her mouth a lot, but this is because in DGS the words are pronounced voicelessly while one signs. I wouldn't call this facial expressions, but one could. There are a few words that are only distinguised by the "mouth picture", for example the signs for brother, sister and "the same" are the same except for the mouth movement.

I would be shocked if any sign language didn't have some degree of facial expression, since it's the root of inflection in the medium. It's where the tone of your voice comes from. It's not that sign has words that you say with your face, but your face reflects what you think about the words you're saying.

Well, but that's the same in spoken language, isn't it?

But I read some more in the German WP article about DGS and they give you right:
- rising eye brows for yes/no questions (but additionally the pronoun is repeated in the end, if there is one)
- rising eye brows for the if-part of an if-then sentence, nodding during the then-part
- before/after clauses use the same mimic as if-clauses
- adverbs and adverbials are shown with the face, e.g. "The man angrily reads the letter." -> man, read and letter are signed, angrily is shown with a facial expression. The article also mentions "hopefully", "definitely" as being shown with mimic.

My teacher either didn't do this for yes/no questions or I didn't notice. The other stuff (if etc.) we didn't have, yet, I only did DGS I and II.


This article is not related much to facial expressions, but still interesting: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SignWriting . I have seen German Sign Writing, it used the same hand signs, but I don't remember face signs ... but maybe I just forgot.
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Re: American Sign Language

Postby Chai Kovsky » Mon Oct 06, 2008 11:59 pm UTC

Again, Monika, it's not about "face signs," but about inflection coming from the face. You can't I'm not talking about moving your mouth, because that varies from SL to SL. But if you say some food is "bad," you twist your face up in disgust a little while making that sign.

Monika wrote:
Chai Kovsky wrote:I would be shocked if any sign language didn't have some degree of facial expression, since it's the root of inflection in the medium. It's where the tone of your voice comes from. It's not that sign has words that you say with your face, but your face reflects what you think about the words you're saying.

Well, but that's the same in spoken language, isn't it?

The answer is complicated, but it boils down to "Yes, but more so." Because SLs are visual languages, any visual component will have more importance in that language than in an oral one.

Your list of things that require facial expression is good (thank you for summarizing, my German is non-existent. You could have said the article was about cheese and I would have believed you). There are some things you just can't describe without your face. You can't sign sarcastically, for instance, without facial expression. The important thing is that the facial expression be natural: you can't just raise your eyebrows. That's the shorthand sign teachers give for "have an inquisitive face while you ask." It's not something a teacher typically outright says, but probably does when asking a question and the students unconsciously pick up on it. The more signers you're around, the more you tend to do it.
Spoiler:
kellsbells wrote:¡This Chai is burning me!
Chai Kovsky wrote:I can kill you with my brain.

That is all.
superglucose wrote:In other words: LISTEN TO CHAI.
Delayra wrote:Yet another brilliant idea from Chai!

I <3 Pirate.Bondage!

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Re: American Sign Language

Postby RealGrouchy » Tue Oct 07, 2008 3:03 am UTC

I took a few semesters of first-level sign language classes, though I had no deaf friends to practise it with, as is the case for most languages I have learned (or tried to learn).

Deaf parties are awesome. The music can be as loud as you want, yet you can still understand the person talking to you from across the room.

To find classes, find your local hearing society office. Assuming you're in a large enough city, there's probably a place where deaf people go for resources. That place will probably have courses.

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Re: American Sign Language

Postby Monika » Tue Oct 07, 2008 9:01 am UTC

Chai Kovsky wrote:Your list of things that require facial expression is good (thank you for summarizing, my German is non-existent. You could have said the article was about cheese and I would have believed you).

That particular article would even be difficult to understand if you spoke German fluently. They use lots of grammatical / linguistic terms that I have never heard or read of, and I would say that I know quite a lot of grammatical terms.

RealGrouchy wrote:I took a few semesters of first-level sign language classes, though I had no deaf friends to practise it with, as is the case for most languages I have learned (or tried to learn).

Here the deaf have meeting centers in towns and cities and sign learners are welcome. One of the first things our teacher taught us was how to order various kinds of beverages for that purpose ;) .
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Re: American Sign Language

Postby pedestrian » Tue Oct 07, 2008 4:02 pm UTC

I've been waiting for this thread to start. :) I've been signing (SEE and ASL) for probably about 10ish years, but only deeply focused perhaps the last 4. That's interesting about the German Sign with possibly no facial expression. In ASL, however, facial expression and mouthing are essential grammatical features, along with doing the actual sign.


Insanity's Partner wrote:It'd be nice if I could ask you for some help, but I don't believe it would do me any good if I can't see you. :P


Well, we could always gloss to each other... :)

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Re: American Sign Language

Postby RealGrouchy » Tue Oct 07, 2008 8:03 pm UTC

pedestrian wrote:In ASL, however, facial expression and mouthing are essential grammatical features, along with doing the actual sign.
Hm. Maybe that's why I was never very enthusiastic to practise...

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Re: American Sign Language

Postby Chai Kovsky » Tue Oct 07, 2008 10:52 pm UTC

pedestrian wrote:In ASL, however, facial expression and mouthing are essential grammatical features, along with doing the actual sign.

Really? My deaf friend is at Gallaudet right now and she mouths a lot, but says everyone around asks whether she's hearing or HoH because of it. A lot of the deaf-of-deaf there, she says, don't mouth at all.

Then again, Deaf culture at Gallaudet is pretty hardcore. They have their own thing going there.

Glad to have such an experienced signer on the boards!
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kellsbells wrote:¡This Chai is burning me!
Chai Kovsky wrote:I can kill you with my brain.

That is all.
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Delayra wrote:Yet another brilliant idea from Chai!

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Re: American Sign Language

Postby pedestrian » Wed Oct 08, 2008 4:27 am UTC

Chai Kovsky wrote:
pedestrian wrote:In ASL, however, facial expression and mouthing are essential grammatical features, along with doing the actual sign.

Really? My deaf friend is at Gallaudet right now and she mouths a lot, but says everyone around asks whether she's hearing or HoH because of it. A lot of the deaf-of-deaf there, she says, don't mouth at all.


Well, it's mouthing in a sense, but not in what hearing people would think. Some signs have mouthings that don't really relate to how the word is formed. Example (off the top of my head): the mouthing for the sign LARGE is "cha", MEDIUM is "mm" (sort of pursing lips), and SMALL is "oo."

But you're right; some signs don't have mouthings. And eyebrows, man, those get fun, too. They can determine the difference between a yes/no question, a statement, or a wh-question.

Not to be nit-picky, but do you mean deaf or Deaf? There's a difference and could explain why there is/isn't mouthing.

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Re: American Sign Language

Postby Monika » Wed Oct 08, 2008 12:24 pm UTC

What is the difference?
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Re: American Sign Language

Postby pedestrian » Wed Oct 08, 2008 2:22 pm UTC

Monika wrote:What is the difference?


Being deaf is just simply a physical hearing loss. Being Deaf refers to being involved in Deaf culture, but you don't necessarily have to have a hearing loss--although 99.9% do. The only exception would be children of Deaf adults and sign language interpreters, who need to be involved in the culture to have more effective communication with their clients.

The main difference with this is that deaf are generally more oral and don't sign, or if they sign, it's more English-ey--using non-ASL signs and English word order (SVO). A Deaf person will have more ASL structure to their signs (OSV), and may or may not have a hearing aid. They don't, however, depend on it for communication; they still sign.

I'm trying not to make this technical, but this definition really splits hairs.

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Re: American Sign Language

Postby Monika » Wed Oct 08, 2008 2:27 pm UTC

Okay, I see, thanks.
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Re: American Sign Language

Postby Chai Kovsky » Wed Oct 08, 2008 11:44 pm UTC

pedestrian wrote:Not to be nit-picky, but do you mean deaf or Deaf?

Not nit-picky at all. My deaf friend is little-d: she had hearing parents, bilingual upbringing with a strong oral component, and SEE not ASL (though now she speaks both as well as Italian Sign Language).

Obviously, there's an exception for the mouth morphemes; I thought upthread you were referring to out-and-out mouthing English. Then again, a lot people tend to mouth English instead. I think when the hardcore oralist movement was strong, sign advocates took pride in keeping ASL as different from spoken English as possible. As the oralists have moderated (and in places sublimated into CI advocacy, another kettle of fish altogether), Deaf culture has become more accepting of bilinguals, pidgin signers, and others who don't have that very strict and exacting sign edcuation that DODs have had.

Not that I mind, of course, because I use pidgin :wink:
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kellsbells wrote:¡This Chai is burning me!
Chai Kovsky wrote:I can kill you with my brain.

That is all.
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Delayra wrote:Yet another brilliant idea from Chai!

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Re: American Sign Language

Postby Monika » Thu Oct 09, 2008 8:12 am UTC

What is Pidgin sign like?
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Re: American Sign Language

Postby Chai Kovsky » Thu Oct 09, 2008 2:59 pm UTC

Monika wrote:What is Pidgin sign like?

ASL signs in English word order.
Spoiler:
kellsbells wrote:¡This Chai is burning me!
Chai Kovsky wrote:I can kill you with my brain.

That is all.
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Delayra wrote:Yet another brilliant idea from Chai!

I <3 Pirate.Bondage!

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Re: American Sign Language

Postby pedestrian » Thu Oct 09, 2008 7:29 pm UTC

Chai Kovsky wrote:Obviously, there's an exception for the mouth morphemes; I thought upthread you were referring to out-and-out mouthing English. Then again, a lot people tend to mouth English instead. I think when the hardcore oralist movement was strong, sign advocates took pride in keeping ASL as different from spoken English as possible. As the oralists have moderated (and in places sublimated into CI advocacy, another kettle of fish altogether), Deaf culture has become more accepting of bilinguals, pidgin signers, and others who don't have that very strict and exacting sign edcuation that DODs have had.

Not that I mind, of course, because I use pidgin :wink:


Ah you call them mouth morphemes? That makes a bit more sense. I've been told they're called 'mouthings,' but your phrase is definitely less ambiguous. Some English words I do mouth, just to distinguish from other translations the sign could allow, like VOTE and TEA, which are the same sign.

You use pidgin and Deaf accept that? Wow. I know some Deaf that would cut off your hands if you even *thought* of signing English. I know a CODA (child of Deaf adult) who tried to place out of ASL classes in college, but the Deaf teacher placed him in level 2 (out of 4) because he signs English. I mean, c'mon. Obviously he's fluent.

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Re: American Sign Language

Postby Chai Kovsky » Thu Oct 09, 2008 11:29 pm UTC

pedestrian wrote:
Chai Kovsky wrote:Obviously, there's an exception for the mouth morphemes; I thought upthread you were referring to out-and-out mouthing English. Then again, a lot people tend to mouth English instead. I think when the hardcore oralist movement was strong, sign advocates took pride in keeping ASL as different from spoken English as possible. As the oralists have moderated (and in places sublimated into CI advocacy, another kettle of fish altogether), Deaf culture has become more accepting of bilinguals, pidgin signers, and others who don't have that very strict and exacting sign edcuation that DODs have had.

Not that I mind, of course, because I use pidgin :wink:


Ah you call them mouth morphemes? That makes a bit more sense. I've been told they're called 'mouthings,' but your phrase is definitely less ambiguous. Some English words I do mouth, just to distinguish from other translations the sign could allow, like VOTE and TEA, which are the same sign.

You use pidgin and Deaf accept that? Wow. I know some Deaf that would cut off your hands if you even *thought* of signing English. I know a CODA (child of Deaf adult) who tried to place out of ASL classes in college, but the Deaf teacher placed him in level 2 (out of 4) because he signs English. I mean, c'mon. Obviously he's fluent.

There's a radical element of Deaf culture that hates pidgin (and for that matter, anything that isn't pure, unadulterated, DOD-six-generations ASL). I dislike the element that would do that sort of thing that you described, but it doesn't surprise me that it would happen. I haven't gotten crap for using pidgin, but for the most part, the little group of deaf people I sign with are happy enough that I bothered learning at all. My best friend is spending a semester at Gallaudet, but at her art school, no one signs. She has a lot of hearing friends here in her hometown, and a couple of us have seriously studied sign language, but everyone at least knows fingerspelling and some basic signs. It stuns me how people will either avoid deaf people because of the language barrier or just write, etc, and never learn sign.

I think the English word order is valuable. I mean, obviously, it's easier for me than ASL grammar because I learned English first, but the grammatical structure eases the transition into written English for deaf people as well. Given the astounding rate of illiteracy among the deaf and in the Deaf community, I think anything that can improve literacy is of the utmost importance.
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Re: American Sign Language

Postby pedestrian » Fri Oct 10, 2008 8:47 pm UTC

Chai Kovsky wrote:It stuns me how people will either avoid deaf people because of the language barrier or just write, etc, and never learn sign.


Join the club. It irks me that hearing people won't learn even HI ME NAME #______ , but I suppose that's just my unrealistic expectations talking here. It also bothers me how awkward people get around d/Deaf. Although, I'd say that writing is actually better than other reactions I've seen, like blatantly ignoring the person.

I think the English word order is valuable. I mean, obviously, it's easier for me than ASL grammar because I learned English first, but the grammatical structure eases the transition into written English for deaf people as well. Given the astounding rate of illiteracy among the deaf and in the Deaf community, I think anything that can improve literacy is of the utmost importance.


True, but haven't you found that some ASL meanings are just so rich that you can't put it in English words? I sometimes find that I express myself better in ASL, rather than in English. Also, I find that most people who learn pidgin first, not ASL, think that ASL is just English in signs. This only helps to perpetuate thoughts that ASL is an inferior language.

Do you know any ASL, or do you sign solely in pidgin? I learned Signing Exact English first, then ASL, then pidgin, which I used for 2 years with a deaf (small d) friend. Now I use ASL exclusively. I've forgot many of the pidgin signs I knew, because pure ASL Deaf hate initialized signs.

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Re: American Sign Language

Postby Chai Kovsky » Fri Oct 10, 2008 9:40 pm UTC

pedestrian wrote:True, but haven't you found that some ASL meanings are just so rich that you can't put it in English words? I sometimes find that I express myself better in ASL, rather than in English. Also, I find that most people who learn pidgin first, not ASL, think that ASL is just English in signs. This only helps to perpetuate thoughts that ASL is an inferior language.

Do you know any ASL, or do you sign solely in pidgin? I learned Signing Exact English first, then ASL, then pidgin, which I used for 2 years with a deaf (small d) friend. Now I use ASL exclusively. I've forgot many of the pidgin signs I knew, because pure ASL Deaf hate initialized signs.

First off, I don't think that "English in signs" would mark it as an inferior language anyway, and it's a sign of extreme cultural prejudice to think of it that way (that the exact same language is superior spoken than signed). I'm wasn't clear whether that your idea or someone else's, but it seems more than a little discriminatory.

As a speaker of multiple languages, every one of them just has a different way of saying things and many of these can't be translated. That's true with English-into-ASL as well as vice versa. I find the grammar of both languages restrictive occasionally and just use whatever word order best describes the idea I'm trying to get across; the same signs can communicate such different ideas in English word order than ASL, but also the other way around.

At the same time, d/Deaf people are expected to be fluent in written English as well as whichever sign language they may use. The only problem is that, as second language speakers always find, picking up a new grammar system reduces your capability in the second language. Spoken English speakers learn the same grammar as they write, while we don't afford that opportunity to ASL speakers (SEE attempts to redress this, but I don't honestly see widespread adoption of the language as viable in the Deaf community). By trying to preserve the "integrity" of the ASL, we harm the capacity for English literacy, significantly reducing opportunities for deaf people. I love ASL, but by forcing all deaf people to learn two separate languages, we essentially shoot ourselves in the foot.

Yeah. The literacy thing is a big deal with me.

I've never learned any "pidgin signs" that were any different from ASL and don't use initialized signs. All of my formal study has been in ASL, I just don't tend to use it because I don't think I express myself as well. When I'm better in pure ASL, I'll probably use that when talking to Deaf people and pidgin when talking to my circle because, in the end, language is about facilitating communication and if my group is most comfortable in pidgin, that's the language I'll use.
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Re: American Sign Language

Postby Monika » Mon Oct 13, 2008 10:56 am UTC

What are initialized signs?
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Re: American Sign Language

Postby Monika » Mon Oct 13, 2008 11:11 am UTC

pedestrian wrote:Join the club. It irks me that hearing people won't learn even HI ME NAME #______ , but I suppose that's just my unrealistic expectations talking here.

It is pretty unrealistic. How and where are hearing people expected to learn "Hi me name ..." if they don't have a deaf family member or friend? And even if one has learned it once and remembers the gesture for "name", one forgets the finger alphabet pretty fast to spell out the name. I remember how to say "my name" in DGS, but I can't finger-sign MONIKA anymore. And my class has been only about two years ago.

Although, I'd say that writing is actually better than other reactions I've seen, like blatantly ignoring the person.

I also don't see what's wrong with writing. If the dead person can lip-read very well, then speaking slowly and clearly is sufficient, but some can't, and then reading will be much easier for them. And what would be the other option? The non-signing hearing person making up signs that he or she thinks could convey whatever they try to express? It would be a desaster for any signs that go beyond something like "me" or "over there".

Not everyone has the time to take a sign class, signing classes aren't offered in all places, and even studying a sign language for a year isn't overly useful ... I did and still can't have a conversation at all, unless someone wants to discuss birds sitting on roofs, cats sitting under cars or various beverages.
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Re: American Sign Language

Postby pedestrian » Mon Oct 13, 2008 1:05 pm UTC

Chai Kovsky wrote:First off, I don't think that "English in signs" would mark it as an inferior language anyway, and it's a sign of extreme cultural prejudice to think of it that way (that the exact same language is superior spoken than signed). I'm wasn't clear whether that your idea or someone else's, but it seems more than a little discriminatory.


No, this is most definitely NOT my position on the matter. Trying to compare English and ASL is difficult, because they are not the same language. I was articulating the viewpoint of many people; I find it unfortunate that people feel that ASL inferior simply because it doesn't use the voice. My apologies if I was misinterpreted. I agree that such a viewpoint is entirely discriminatory.

Yeah. The literacy thing is a big deal with me.


Oh, it is with me too.

Monika wrote:What are initialized signs?


Initialized signs are signs that incorporate the first letter. Look up OFFICE vs. ROOM at this link (I can't get it to link right to the page, so you'll have to search for it yourself) http://commtechlab.msu.edu/sites/aslweb/browser.htm. OFFICE would be the initialized sign, since ROOM is the, for lack of a better word, root sign. It has the most basic meaning. The problem is that most Deaf (big D meaning culturally deaf) don't like initialized signs, and they're trying to go back to pure ASL. Initialization is considered a more English style of signing. If I was Deaf and wanted to sign OFFICE, instead of using O for the handshape, I would sign WORK+ROOM. Some words, like OFFICE, can be reduced into their dictionary definition for signing (it's a room where you do work), but if you look up KING, there's no replacement for that. So it's kind of confusing because some initializations are accepted, while others are rejected.

Monika wrote:I remember how to say "my name" in DGS, but I can't finger-sign MONIKA anymore. And my class has been only about two years ago.


Do you happen to recall any of the grammar in DGS? I'm curious how it's set up.

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Re: American Sign Language

Postby Monika » Mon Oct 13, 2008 4:43 pm UTC

We mostly practiced grammar relating to saying sentences like X is on/under/next to/in front of/in Y. One says the large / immovable object first, then the small / movable object, then the verb / position word, so typically Y X verb.

E.g. "The bird sits on the roof." = "Roof bird sit." One has to make the "sit" sign at the position were one signed the roof.
"The cat stand in front of the car." = "Car cat stand." The car is movable, too, but is larger than the cat anyway. "stand" is signed at a position relative to where one signed the car to show she is in front of it.

So it's very different from spoken German grammar with respect to word order.

One can make additional vertical hand movements to clarify the locations, kind of like emphasizing the large / immovable object and making sure the "listener" notes the location where one signs it for later reference. Also, it is possible to leave the left hand at the position for the large / immovable object (DGS is signed with both hands) or put it back to that position when making the verb sign to indicate the relative position (like "on").

We didn't learn much else. Only the things that are pretty natural for sign languages, i.e. there is no inflection of verbs and nouns that I know of (while there is a lot in spoken German), no distinction between I/my/me etc.

I don't know if you would consider it to be a part of grammar, but maybe it is for a sign language: One has to maintain the leading hand, e.g. use the right hand for leading and the left hand for the more passive part of the sign all the time. Not sure if that makes sense to someone who uses a one-hand sign language. An example: counting. Hearing (right-handed) people count with their fingers from one to 10 by adding more fingers from right to left. If 5 is ..... ||||| then 6 is ....| ||||| for them. But for German deaf people that feels all wrong (or rather, it is actually the wrong sign for 6, if one uses the right hand as the leading hand), because one changed the leading hand from right to left when going from 5 to 6. The correct sign for 6 would be ||||| ....|.
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Re: American Sign Language

Postby pedestrian » Tue Oct 14, 2008 2:44 pm UTC

Your word order is actually kind of similar to ASL, but ASL doesn't depend on object size for word order. It's OSV. How interesting, though. What if there are two objects that are similar in size?

One can make additional vertical hand movements to clarify the locations, kind of like emphasizing the large / immovable object and making sure the "listener" notes the location where one signs it for later reference. Also, it is possible to leave the left hand at the position for the large / immovable object (DGS is signed with both hands) or put it back to that position when making the verb sign to indicate the relative position (like "on").


Yeah, ASL kind of does the same things for point reference. It gets really confusing when someone is talking about a bunch of different people, because you have to remember where each one is placed in the signer's perspective.

You have no verb/noun inflection? I'm not sure if this counts for ASL, but there are directional signs, like me-TEACH-you is signed in a different direction than you-TEACH-me, although it still has the same handshape, etc. If it's a particple, like eating, it's though of as EAT++, where the signer will repeat the sign a few times to show continual action. For nouns, ASL will repeat it a few times if it's plural.

I don't know if you would consider it to be a part of grammar, but maybe it is for a sign language: One has to maintain the leading hand, e.g. use the right hand for leading and the left hand for the more passive part of the sign all the time.


For leading hand, does that mean you sign mainly with your right hand if you're right handed? That's also similar in ASL. Whatever hand is dominant for writing is dominant for signing. If you use two hands for counting, do you start 6 with the thumb or the index on the dominant hand? Here's a video from youtube that has #1-20 in ASL. Apparently it's quite different from DGS. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UfeDNoHY ... re=related

One final question. :) Is there one handed signing in DGS? In ASL, if both hands are doing the same sign, it's acceptable to drop the non-dominant hand and just use the dominant (in my case my right) hand. Or, the dominant hand can do all the signing if the other hand is engaged for some reason. I once saw a grandmother signing with one hand while holding her granddaughter's hand with the other. It was cute. The signing is still understandable, but it's like talking while yawning for a hearing person.

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Re: American Sign Language

Postby Cryopyre » Wed Oct 15, 2008 4:43 am UTC

Do deaf people think in hand movements?
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Re: American Sign Language

Postby BrainMagMo » Wed Oct 15, 2008 9:27 pm UTC

Cryopyre wrote:Do deaf people think in hand movements?

Yes, I'm pretty sure they do.
ASL is a language as much as any other. It has a phonology (the mind interprets hand signs and sounds exactly the same), vocab, grammar (very different from English).
I've seen rants over having the speak (sign) one language and write in another; the person was talking about some written ASL he <3'd learning, I forget which.
Also, they think in ASL; hand movements being analogous to vowels in English, you sort of asked "Do voicing people think in vowels?"

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Re: American Sign Language

Postby steewi » Thu Oct 16, 2008 6:06 am UTC

Cryopyre wrote:Do deaf people think in hand movements?

Apparently they also talk in their sleep using SL. SL native speakers have SL in the same part of their brain as any spoken language, so anything that a spoken language does probably has a SL equivalent, probably directly. There's also SL poetry.


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