Sign Language:
     At least 4 myths, a few true facts,
         and fun stuff from the web

                   Nancy Fris...
Always start with a joke




12 November 2008   Linguistics 1: Frishberg   2
Goals for Today
•  Let’s share assumptions and questions about
   sign language
•  Let’s correct some misunderstandings an...
My contact with deafness
•  Hard of Hearing mother
•  Toddler friend also “Hard of Hearing”
•  Junior High School friend h...
Your experiences with
            Deafness? Signing?
•    School?                        •  Informal contact?
•    Scouts?...
Some of the student questions
•  Genetics of deafness?          •  When did signing start?
•  Differences between         ...
A Couple of Examples of
           Fluent Signing
•  Jane Norman’s blog and vlog
   http://thedeaflens.com/?cat=24
•  Hatr...
4 Myths - 2x2
•  Signing is Pantomime
•  Signing is Universal

•  Signing is a coded form of speech
•  Signing is fingersp...
Myth!        Signing is Pantomime
•  Is pantomime conventional? standardized?
    –  Or can it change from one person to a...
Myth! Signing           is Universal

•  If signing were a universal language, then
    –  You would understand what we’ve...
Signing is
                   Myth!
         a coded form of speech
•  If signs are coded speech, then there is
   a 1:1 r...
Myth! Signing                      is fingerspelling
   Fingerspelling is a method of representing (English)
       words ...
Signing is

•  A mode of producing and perceiving specific
   primary human languages
    –  ASL ≠ BSL; ASL ≠ LSF
    –  D...
Modalities of Production
              Speech                                  Signing
One articulator                    ...
Modalities of Perception
              Speech                                    Signing
Ears - auditory                  ...
Questions
•  From the reading
•  From our discussion so far
•  If time permits, we’ll continue to …




12 November 2008  ...
2 Articulators + Face




12 November 2008   Linguistics 1: Frishberg   17
One- & Two-handed signs
                            Teuber, et al. (1980) computer tally
                            of 16...
Constraints on 2-handed signs
                     Two hands have the
                        same shape?
                ...
Type 1
•  Two hands same
   shape
•  Both hands both
   move




12 November 2008   Linguistics 1: Frishberg   20
Type 2
•  Two hands same
   shape
•  One hand moves




12 November 2008   Linguistics 1: Frishberg   21
Type 3
•  Two hands different
   shapes
•  One hand moves




12 November 2008   Linguistics 1: Frishberg   22
Type 4
•  Two hands different                        ?
   shapes
•  Both hands move




12 November 2008   Linguistics 1: ...
Constraints on 2-handed signs
                       Two hands have the
                          same shape?
            ...
(at least) 5 Functions of the
            Face in ASL
1.  Affective
    •    speaker attitude toward utterance
2.  Intensi...
Beyond Marlee Matlin




12 November 2008   Linguistics 1: Frishberg   26
Beyond Marlee Matlin
•  Marketing materials from companies
   who know they have culturally Deaf
   customers
    –  http:...
Research about New
         Technologies & Signing

•  Recognizing ASL for dictionary lookup
    –  http://www.thoughtware...
Mobile ASL (U Washington)
•  What is required to carry ASL
   conversations over US cell phones?
    –  SW: Appropriate fr...
Online “Dictionaries” of ASL
   http://gupress.gallaudet.edu/bookpage/
   GDASLbookpage.html
     (this is where I took th...
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Sign Languages for Linguistics 1 (Stanford)

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This introduction to ideas about sign languages was prepared for Stanford University's Linguistics 1 course in November 2008. It emphasizes the 4 myths, shows some authentic ASL vlogs and websites that use ASL as one of the modes of communication. (Links have not been verified again.)

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Sign Languages for Linguistics 1 (Stanford)

  1. 1. Sign Language: At least 4 myths, a few true facts, and fun stuff from the web Nancy Frishberg, Ph.D. nancyf@fishbird.com 12 November 2008 Linguistics 1: Frishberg 1
  2. 2. Always start with a joke 12 November 2008 Linguistics 1: Frishberg 2
  3. 3. Goals for Today •  Let’s share assumptions and questions about sign language •  Let’s correct some misunderstandings and decide how to reconcile some incompatible ideas •  Let’s agree on how to decide whether sign language fits in the scheme of human language behavior •  Let’s learn a few fun facts about signing 12 November 2008 Linguistics 1: Frishberg 3
  4. 4. My contact with deafness •  Hard of Hearing mother •  Toddler friend also “Hard of Hearing” •  Junior High School friend had deaf grandparents –  We spelled; I learned a dozen signs •  Grad school entry (in linguistics) coincided with Bellugi’s first NIH grant 12 November 2008 Linguistics 1: Frishberg 4
  5. 5. Your experiences with Deafness? Signing? •  School? •  Informal contact? •  Scouts? •  Formal instruction? •  Sesame Street? •  Language Files •  Other TV? Movies? readings? This is where you get to ask stupid questions -- but, there are no stupid questions -- and reveal your assumptions and preconceptions 12 November 2008 Linguistics 1: Frishberg 5
  6. 6. Some of the student questions •  Genetics of deafness? •  When did signing start? •  Differences between •  How does sign express ASL and other sign ideas like “sarcasm”? languages •  Shouldn’t there be one •  Expressive capacity? sign language – •  How does ASL create universal? new words •  Regional differences •  Is ASL grammar •  “Music” equivalent? equivalent to English grammar 12 November 2008 Linguistics 1: Frishberg 6
  7. 7. A Couple of Examples of Fluent Signing •  Jane Norman’s blog and vlog http://thedeaflens.com/?cat=24 •  Hatrak Sisters Enterprises http://www.hatraksisters.com/ 12 November 2008 Linguistics 1: Frishberg 7
  8. 8. 4 Myths - 2x2 •  Signing is Pantomime •  Signing is Universal •  Signing is a coded form of speech •  Signing is fingerspelling 12 November 2008 Linguistics 1: Frishberg 8
  9. 9. Myth! Signing is Pantomime •  Is pantomime conventional? standardized? –  Or can it change from one person to another? From one occasion to another? –  How about signing? •  Does pantomime fit the temporal requirements or habits of a human language? •  How culturally bound is pantomime? How about signing? •  Does pantomime imply “concrete” or “simple”? How about signing? 12 November 2008 Linguistics 1: Frishberg 9
  10. 10. Myth! Signing is Universal •  If signing were a universal language, then –  You would understand what we’ve seen on these vlogs and websites without transcripts or interpretation –  You would not need any help understanding what any deaf person signs –  People from around the world would be able to communicate with each other successfully and effortlessly in gesture –  There would not be many sign languages, nor regional variation within each sign language 12 November 2008 Linguistics 1: Frishberg 10
  11. 11. Signing is Myth! a coded form of speech •  If signs are coded speech, then there is a 1:1 relationship between signs and spoken language –  At what level would this coding happen? •  Sounds? Cf. Cued speech •  Words? Parts of words? Cf. SEE, etc. •  Spelling? (see next slide) 12 November 2008 Linguistics 1: Frishberg 11
  12. 12. Myth! Signing is fingerspelling Fingerspelling is a method of representing (English) words using a series of manual gestures that correspond to the alphabet •  No difference between capital and lowercase, limited use of punctuation –  i.e., it’s not writing •  One-handed vs. two-handed spelling –  Quick aside on history of ASL and BSL, Rochester Method •  How does it function in the stream of signs? 12 November 2008 Linguistics 1: Frishberg 12
  13. 13. Signing is •  A mode of producing and perceiving specific primary human languages –  ASL ≠ BSL; ASL ≠ LSF –  Different sign languages are not mutually intelligible to native signers –  Not transparent to non-signers, but possible more obviously iconic than (most) spoken languages •  Capable of all expression available to other modes of human language –  Meets the duality of patterning criterion for human languages 12 November 2008 Linguistics 1: Frishberg 13
  14. 14. Modalities of Production Speech Signing One articulator Two articulators, plus face/body Invisible to speaker Generally visible to signer Invisible to addressee Visible to addressee Asymmetric Mirror-image symmetric Breathing, vocalization, pitch, Gesture area, size of space, timbre, pausing, silence rhythmic structures, pausing, silence Other? Other? 12 November 2008 Linguistics 1: Frishberg 14
  15. 15. Modalities of Perception Speech Signing Ears - auditory Eyes - visual (& tactile?) Omni-directional Subscribed visual angle Speech concentrated in certain Foveal vs. peripheral vision; frequencies of human hearing cones and rods Distance limits? Barriers? Distance limits? Barriers? Noise? Darkness? Noise? Darkness? Speaker’s voice competes with Signer and addressee can addressee’s voice overlap without apparent conflict Other? Other? 12 November 2008 Linguistics 1: Frishberg 15
  16. 16. Questions •  From the reading •  From our discussion so far •  If time permits, we’ll continue to … 12 November 2008 Linguistics 1: Frishberg 16
  17. 17. 2 Articulators + Face 12 November 2008 Linguistics 1: Frishberg 17
  18. 18. One- & Two-handed signs Teuber, et al. (1980) computer tally of 1628 non-compounds 1-handed signs 38% N = 585 2-handed signs 62% N = 1230 Drawn from Stokoe, Casterline & Croneberg’s Dictionary of American Sign Language (1965). Not based on usage frequency, but on dictionary entries. 12 November 2008 Linguistics 1: Frishberg 18
  19. 19. Constraints on 2-handed signs Two hands have the same shape? Yes No Type 1 Type 4 Two Yes hands both Type 2 Type 3 moving? No 12 November 2008 Linguistics 1: Frishberg 19
  20. 20. Type 1 •  Two hands same shape •  Both hands both move 12 November 2008 Linguistics 1: Frishberg 20
  21. 21. Type 2 •  Two hands same shape •  One hand moves 12 November 2008 Linguistics 1: Frishberg 21
  22. 22. Type 3 •  Two hands different shapes •  One hand moves 12 November 2008 Linguistics 1: Frishberg 22
  23. 23. Type 4 •  Two hands different ? shapes •  Both hands move 12 November 2008 Linguistics 1: Frishberg 23
  24. 24. Constraints on 2-handed signs Two hands have the same shape? Yes No Symmetry *
 (ill-formed in Yes Condition Two ASL) 32% hands 1% both Symmetry Dominance moving? No (shape) & Condition Dominance 19% (relations) 11% 12 November 2008 Linguistics 1: Frishberg 24
  25. 25. (at least) 5 Functions of the Face in ASL 1.  Affective •  speaker attitude toward utterance 2.  Intensifier; other adverbials •  RECENTLY •  THHH, tongue flap 3.  Lexical •  LATE vs NOT YET; PAH! 4.  Sentential intonation markings •  Q, REL… 5.  Backchannel •  one nostril twitch vs. two nostril twitch 12 November 2008 Linguistics 1: Frishberg 25
  26. 26. Beyond Marlee Matlin 12 November 2008 Linguistics 1: Frishberg 26
  27. 27. Beyond Marlee Matlin •  Marketing materials from companies who know they have culturally Deaf customers –  http://www.goamerica.com/10digit/ (25 Sept 08) –  http://www.deafmd.org/ •  Deaf Folklore turns into mainstream ad “Bob’s House” (Pepsi Ad, SuperBowl08) –  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ffrq6cUoE5A 12 November 2008 Linguistics 1: Frishberg 27
  28. 28. Research about New Technologies & Signing •  Recognizing ASL for dictionary lookup –  http://www.thoughtware.tv/videos/show/2870 •  Signs webcast from home –  http://uts.cc.utexas.edu/~ekeating/Publications/ ASLVirtSpace.pdf 12 November 2008 Linguistics 1: Frishberg 28
  29. 29. Mobile ASL (U Washington) •  What is required to carry ASL conversations over US cell phones? –  SW: Appropriate frame rate, compression –  Machine vision: Skin detection, activity detection –  HW: Camera on same surface as screen http://mobileasl.cs.washington.edu/ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FaE1PvJwI8E 12 November 2008 Linguistics 1: Frishberg 29
  30. 30. Online “Dictionaries” of ASL http://gupress.gallaudet.edu/bookpage/ GDASLbookpage.html (this is where I took the 2-handed examples from) http://www.lifeprint.com/index.htm (this is the one that Language Files uses) http://www.handspeak.com/tour/index.php (yet another dictionary that shows examples from ASL and a few other sign languages) Bibliography of Sign Language http://www.sign-lang.uni-hamburg.de/BibWeb/ 12 November 2008 Linguistics 1: Frishberg 30
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