Silent Languages
Chapter 5
Sign Language
• FOR MANY YEARS PEOPLE DID NOT THINK SIGN LANGUAGE WAS A ‘REAL’
LANGUAGE
• THEY THOUGHT IT WAS RANDOM GESTURES
• THIS IDEA REFLECTS LINGUISTIC IDEOLOGY CALLED ORALITY
• THIS MEANS THAT PEOPLE TOOK FOR GRANTED THE IDEA THAT SPOKEN
LANGUAGE WAS BETTER THAN ANY OTHER TYPE OF LANGAUGE
• THEREFORE EDUCATION FOCUSED ON the oral approach of FINGERSPELLING AND
LIPREADING and Manually coded English
• Artificial language that follows exact structure of spoken English
Sign Language
• William stokoe, jr learned and taught MCE but saw that students used sign language to
communicate outside of class
• this sign language had its own unique language structure
History of Sign Language
• American sign language (asl) was developed from French sign language in the 1800s
by Gallaudet and Clerc
• all sign languages are different (British, French , Nicaraguan, etc.) and deaf people
cannot speak to each other in these different forms of sign language
• While most deaf people were taught the oral approach, they kept using sign language
as a way to communicate with each other outside of class
asl
• ASL HAS A DIFFERENT STRUCTURE THAN SPOKEN ENGLISH
• ONE-HANDED SIGNS ARE MADE WITH THE DOMINANT HAND, SO THEY MAY BE MADE
WITH EITHER THE LEFT OR THE RIGHT
asl
• Asl has a different grammar than spoken English as well
• English is subject-verb-object while asl is time-topic-comment
• Example:
• I ate a banana yesterday
• Day-past me eat banana
• Question words (why? How? Etc.) are at the beginning of sentences, not the end
• Example:
• WHAT DID HE BUY?
• HE BUY WHAT?
asl
• SOMETIMES ONE SIGN CAN STAND FOR A PHRASE OR SENTENCE
• THERE IS ONE SIGN FOR ‘I ASK HER’
• THIS IS DIFFICULT FOR NON-ASL SIGNERS TO LEARN, SINCE THEY WANT TO MAKE A
NEW SIGN FOR EACH SPOKEN WORD
• Furrowing eyebrows or other facial features are also part of asl communication
• Asl grammar: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3QC9UYAW8j8
Manually coded signs
• This is not natural sign language
• In mcs, people attempt to teach spoken English to the deaf and uses the exact structure
of spoken English
• So, in order to sing the word ‘improving’ you would need to sign the word ‘improve’ and
then sign the suffix ‘ing’
• In natural sign language improving has its own sign
• When deaf children are taught mcs, they become very confused about morphemes and
how to use them
Describing and analyzing signs
• Review:
• Phoneme = minimal meaningful portion of language
• Chereme = structural unit or basic descriptive unit of signing; also called primes or
sign phonemes
• Sign language phonetics has:
• Dez: hand shape and orientation
• Tab: hand placement
• Sig: hand movement
• These are the building blocks of the language
Describing and analyzing signs
• Sign language phonetics has:
• Dez: hand shape and orientation
• Flat hand, fist hand, index hand, cupped hand
• “A,” “b,” ‘c,” and ‘d’ (see pg. 123)
• Tab: hand placement
• near the face, head, and upper body
• Sig: hand movement
• up, down, toward the body, away from body, twisting, and across body
• Practice the different signs for apple and candy on pg. 123
Change in sign language
• Like any other language, sign languages change over time
• New signs get introduced
• Changes occur in placement
• Varieties exist in northern/southern signers
• There are differences by region; what we call ‘dialect’
• Differences exist between ages, genders, and ethnicities
•  the variety of (any) language you choose to speak/sign can convey information about you,
including your identity, what group you belong to, etc.
modality
• Modality is the channel through which a language is expressed
• Spoken languages use oral channel
• Sign languages use visual-gestural channel
• Example: pronouns
• In spoken English, we have these for people, number, gender, etc.
• In asl, pointing indicates the person
• For a person not physically there, an infinite number of pronouns can be made because the signer uses
the empty space to describe him or her
• Does this difference in the languages mean that the people using them have different views of the
world?...
ASL In non-humans
• WE WILL DISCUSS THIS MORE IN A LATER CHAPTER, BUT CHIMPANZEES AND GORILLAS
HAVE LEARNED TO COMMUNICATE THROUGH ASL
• WASHOE (CHIMP)
• KOKO (GORILLA)
Nonverbal communication
• Different cultures use different gestures to mean different things
• You cannot effectively communicate in a culture until you know gestures and nonverbal
communication
• this includes
• Gestures
• Posture
• Facial expressions
• What we call ‘body language’
Nonverbal communication
• Over 60% of messages are conveyed nonverbally
• Sometimes nonverbal cues can override verbal signs
Nonverbal communication
• There can be many misunderstandings
• In Nicaragua, you point with your lip and signal a question by wrinkling nose
• In Comoro islands, you signal ‘come here’ with what looks like ‘go away’
• Thumbs up can be a big insult
• ‘okay’ sign can mean money in japan but an insult in germany
• There are some guidebooks for this, but remember:
• These constantly evolve
• These can reinforce stereotypes
• READ “9 INNOCENT GESTURES THAT WILL GET YOU PUNCHED IN THE FACE OVERSEAS”
Nonverbal communication
• Proxemics is the study of how people perceive and use space
• These vary by culture
• Americans tend to not like to touch
• How much space is between you and your classmates right now?
• Even in subways, new Yorkers leave space between each person, while in Tokyo people
are densely packed into each train
• http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7kor5nHtZQ
Personal space
• There are four types of space:
• Intimate
• For americans, 0-18 inches
• Personal
• 18 in – 4 feet
• Social
• 4-12 feet
• Public
• 12+ feet
Personal space
• What happens when someone from another culture that values closer spaces moves into
your space?
• https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NGVSIkEi3mM
• Space can also mark status or dominance, so many times women feel dominated if men
come too close
• Space is also in workplace
• Ceo has biggest office, then vp, …. Down to cubicles
• Space in home
• Master bedroom for parents and smallest room for youngest
kinesics
• Kinesics is the study of body movement, facial expressions, and gestures
• Gestures are not the same as signs; they are supplemental to language
• Five categories:
• Emblems: direct verbal translations (waving hello)
• Illustrators: illustrate what is said (mimicking talking on phone)
• Affect displays: convey emotion (smiles or frowns)
• Regulators: control or coordinate interaction (indicating it is someone’s turn to talk)
• Adaptors: facilitate release of body tension (nervous tapping)
kinesics
• Kinesics also includes facial expressions, body movements, gaze, and posture
• Direct eye contact is expected in some cultures and forbidden in others
• Eyebrow movement is part of asl
• Gestures can be simple systems or complex systems
kinesics
• Kinesics also includes facial expressions, body movements, gaze, and posture
• Direct eye contact is expected in some cultures and forbidden in others
• Eyebrow movement is part of asl
• Gestures can be simple systems or complex systems
• Simple:
• Routine (example: signals between pitcher and catcher)
• Complex:
• Can be used almost effectively as spoken language
• Develop in situations in which people cannot verbally speak
• Follow syntax of spoken language
kinesics
• Facial expressions are most important
• Some are universally recognized, and some are not, and sometimes people are deceitful
Language and Power
• Language’s power, or effectiveness in communicating, allows people to use it to increase
their personal power, or influence.
• Very common in politics (we will discuss this more in chapter 7)
Nonverbal communication
• Video log:
• http://ed.ted.com/lessons/your-body-language-shapes-who-you-are-amy-cuddy
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Silent Languages