7.1101, Disc: Arabic sign language

The Linguist List linguist at tam2000.tamu.edu
Fri Aug 2 20:11:48 UTC 1996

LINGUIST List:  Vol-7-1101. Fri Aug 2 1996. ISSN: 1068-4875. Lines:  72
Subject: 7.1101, Disc: Arabic sign language
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            Helen Dry: Eastern Michigan U. <hdry at emunix.emich.edu> (On Leave)
            T. Daniel Seely: Eastern Michigan U. <dseely at emunix.emich.edu>
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Editor for this issue: lveselin at emunix.emich.edu (Ljuba Veselinova)
Date:  Wed, 31 Jul 1996 17:14:46 +0200
From:  sharder at ling.hum.aau.dk (Sxren Harder)
Subject:  re: 7.1087 Tunesian Sign Language
Date:  Wed, 31 Jul 1996 17:14:46 +0200
From:  sharder at ling.hum.aau.dk (Sxren Harder)
Subject:  re: 7.1087 Tunesian Sign Language
Salem Ghazali (Salem.Ghazali at irsit.rnrt.tn) asked for help developing
an "Arabic sign language".
I'm very far from an expert in this field, so I post my reply both to
him and to the list so that someone may correct my worst blunders,
because I believe the little I know might be helpful.
The first thing you have to remember is that a sign language is 95%
independent of the spoken language of the regions it is used, so
please do not try to develop an _Arabic_ sign language. Aim for a
Tunesian or North African instead.
I believe there would be two ways to approach the problem.
1) To 'give up'. To use one of the already standardized, existing
(European or American or perhaps there exist some African) sign
languages. Teach this to the deaf community in Tunesia, they will
propably develop their own dialect of it.
2) Do it the hard way. Collect all the different 'home-languages' (as
I believe they are called); if you are lucky some of them might be
historically related, but propably they will have developed totally
independent of each other, and thus not have anything important
structurally in common (besides sign language universals).
The second of these options is the one you seem to have in mind, but
perhaps you should consider whether it is worth the while to make a
brand new artificial language. It will only limit the communicative
capabilities of the deaf community, as it will cut it off from signing
language communities in the rest of the world, without tying it closer
to the (Arabic-)speaking community. There are enough languages in the
world. (This might sound very controversial; it shouldn't in this
I hope this is helpful (and true to the facts :-)),
Soren Harder (student in computational linguistics and formal
LINGUIST List: Vol-7-1101.

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