Depression: an obstacle to learning LO11267
Wed, 04 Dec 1996 11:28:21 -0800

Replying to LO11235 --

Julie Beedon writes, "My knowledge of sign language is limited but I
understand they do not use words as we understand them and they
communicate in broader concepts - anyone know more about this?"
Answer: there are natural sign languages and contrived sign languages.
Contrived sign languages are coding systems invented (usually by hearing
people) to communicate with deaf people. In these systems, signs represent
manual glosses of spoken words (in English, French, or whatever). In most
cases, only the major words of the sentence are glossed, and the word
order of the spoken language is largely preserved. Examples of contrived
sign languages include Signed English and Seeing Essential English). When
you see someone signing and speaking at the same time, they are using a
contrived sign language. (This is the type of signing that Marlee Matlin
uses, for example.)
Fingerspelling is a type of contrived sign language, but in this case
each handshape represents a letter of the alphabet, not a complete word.
Most deaf people when communicating with other deaf people do not use
these contrived sign languages (which are technically not Languages but
glosses). Rather, they communicate in natural sign languages. The dominant
natural sign language in the United States is called American Sign
Language, or ASL. ASL is not English or a form of English. It is a natural
language with its own lexicon (vocabulary), syntax (grammar), and rules of
usage. It's grammatical structure is more like Navajo or Mandarin than
English. There are other natural sign languages in other countries, and
they are unrelated to either ASL or the spoken language of the country.
For example, British Sign Language is unrelated to American Sign Language,
and the two are not mutually intelligible. French Sign Language is not a
form of French, though it is historically related to American Sign
Language. Consequently, because I am fluent in American Sign Language, I
can usually carry on a rudimentary conversation with a deaf person using
French Sign Language, but I cannot understand a deaf person using British
Sign Language.
Obviously, there is much more to this issue, and I would be happy to
share more if there is interest.

Robert Ingram, Ingram Communications
33717 Second Street, Union City, CA, USA 94587-3401
(510) 475-7239 (510) 475-8011 FAX

"Everybody's beautiful, each in his or her own unique way, and the more
we respect other people's differences, the things that make them unique
and beautiful, the more we come to appreciate what is unique and
beautiful in ourselves."


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