7.1145, Disc: Arabic Sign Language

The Linguist List linguist at tam2000.tamu.edu
Tue Aug 13 19:56:59 UTC 1996

LINGUIST List:  Vol-7-1145. Tue Aug 13 1996. ISSN: 1068-4875. Lines:  116
Subject: 7.1145, Disc: Arabic Sign Language
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Date:  Mon, 12 Aug 1996 09:56:31 CDT
From:  dharris at las-inc.com (Dave Harris)
Subject:  Arabic Sign Language
Date:  Tue, 13 Aug 1996 10:38:44 EDT
From:  alosh.1 at osu.edu (Mahdi Alosh)
Subject:  Re: 7.1131, Disc: Arabic Sign Language
Date:  Mon, 12 Aug 1996 09:56:31 CDT
From:  dharris at las-inc.com (Dave Harris)
Subject:  Arabic Sign Language
/I suspect that many Arabs would consider an attempt at teaching their deaf
/fellow citizens a sign language that makes it easier to read a novel in
/French or English than to read Arabic some variant of cultural imperialism.
1- ASL would not make it easier to read a novel in English than in
Arabic.  If what I said gave you that impression, I am sorry. That is
not what I meant. I simply meant to point out that literary Arabic is
an extremely difficult language to learn - right on par with Latin or
Greek in terms of complexity.
2- I agree with the other comment from this same post which pointed
out that the deaf ought to have some say in what they learn. If you
leave it up to hearing Arabs to decide, they won't necessarily do
what's best for the deaf anymore than hearing Americans have
traditionally done for American deaf. If you talk to deaf people, I am
confident that you will find them more concerned about "cultural
imperialism" on the part of their own hearing countrymen than from
other deaf people halfway around the world.
/Aside from that, since languages (including ASL/FSL) cannot be culturally
/neutral (value free) it seems inappropriate to suggest ASL/FSL as a first
/choice for deaf people in any Arabic country.
3- American signers use a language so similar to French sign language
that it is almost entirely mutually intelligible between French and
American signers - much more so than British Sign Language which is
totally different. Yet I have a hard time believing that deaf
Americans feel the slightest bit subject to cultural imperialism on
the part of France. In fact, I've never met a deaf person from the
States who knew even two words in French let alone anything about
French politics, pop culture, commercial products. Pardon me for
saying so, but all this talk of cultural imperialism is a little
ridiculous in my opinion. If you want to criticize someone for
exercising undue cultural imperialism in the Arabic world, I can give
you a list of American tobacco companies and soft drink manufacturers
for starters. Add to that Saturday-morning cartoons with all their
less than subtle hints at what toys to buy and what foods to consume
and you've got a perfect recipe for cultural and commercial inundation
of whole societies.
/An exisiting and more widely
/used sign language from within the Arab world would be more appropriate.
4- I don't disagree with this statement. However, I still think that you
ought to get with the deaf people themselves and see what they want. You
certainly shouldn't rely on what other Arabs want. In my experience with
deaf people, I've found that, as a general rule, they're much more
interested in intereacting with each other than they are with hearing
people. And, face it, how many hearing people do you know that make any
effort at all to communicate with the deaf unless they have close family
members who are deaf? My sense is that the deaf of Tunisia would be ecstatic
about the idea of learning a sign language used by so many others and in
which a wealth of movies and educational resources already exists.
Date:  Tue, 13 Aug 1996 10:38:44 EDT
From:  alosh.1 at osu.edu (Mahdi Alosh)
Subject:  Re: 7.1131, Disc: Arabic Sign Language
I applaud (hendrik at uvic.ca)'s and Wendy Sandler's responses concerning
the use of non-Arabic based SL. As an Arab, I have been offended by
the strong suggestions by some repondents to stay away from any
Arabic-based sign language. I'm no expert in this area, but since
there are British, French, and American sign languages among others,
what's wrong in refining or developing a SL for the deaf among the 250
million Arabs?
Mahdi Alosh
Associate Professor of Arabic
Ohio State University
1735 Neil Avenue, 203 B&Z Bldg.
Columbus, OH 43210
Direct line (614) 292-8504; Department 292-9255
FAX (614) 292-1262
Internet: alosh.1 at osu.edu
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