[Lingtyp] Are there (can there be?) more than two modalities?

Alex Francois alex.francois.cnrs at gmail.com
Fri Jan 28 14:22:05 UTC 2022

dear all,

Indeed, several transcription systems have been proposed for transcribing
sign languages.
These include ASLWrite <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ASLwrite>:
[image: image.png]
Another famous example is Sutton's SignWriting
The latter can be used to transcribe ASL (as in this rendering of "Jack and
[image: image.png]
... but also other SL, like Thai SL:
[image: image.png]

On these matters, I recommend the synthesis published by SL linguists Brigitte
Garcia & Marie-Anne Sallandre:

   - Garcia, Brigitte & Marie-Anne Sallandre. 2013. *Transcription systems
   for sign languages*: a sketch of the different graphical representations
   of sign language and their characteristics
   <https://hal-univ-paris8.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-01043755>. In C.
   Müller, A. Cienki, E. Fricke, S. Ladewig, D. McNeill & S. Tessendorf
   (eds), *Handbook "Body-Language-Communication"*. Berlin: Mouton De
   Gruyter, pp.1125-1338. ⟨hal-01043755⟩


Alex François
LaTTiCe <http://www.lattice.cnrs.fr/en/alexandre-francois/> — CNRS–
–Sorbonne nouvelle
Australian National University
Personal homepage <http://alex.francois.online.fr/>

On Fri, 28 Jan 2022 at 14:51, Riccardo Giomi <rgiomi at campus.ul.pt> wrote:

> Dear Ian, dear all,
> I confess I had never thought about this before, but how about a taxonomy
> of modalities such as the following:
> *↓Sensory channel / Mode**→*
> *Verbal*
> *Graphic*
> *Acoustic*
> Speaking, Whistling, others?
> *Visual*
> Signing
> Writing, Drawings
> *Tactile*
> Tactile signing
> Braille
> As many of you probably know, there have been various attempts to work out
> a graphic system for the representation of signed languages of the type I
> -- somewhat sloppily -- refer to as 'drawings', but I am not aware of any
> really established convention (probably my ignorance). 'Verbal' is also a
> very tentative, and perhaps inaccurate term, but off the top of my head I
> cannot think of a better definition. Finally, the 'others?' in the
> acoustic/verbal cell refers to Daniel Everett's work on Pirahã, a language
> for which the author has documented three other modes besides speaking and
> whistling (namely yelling, humming and singing), each with its own,
> distinct phonetics.
> Everett, Daniel. 1985. Syllable weight, sloppy phonemes, and channels in
> Pirahã discourse. In Mary Niepokuj, Deborah Feder, Vassiliki Nikiforidou,
> and Mary Van Clay (eds.), *Proceedings of the Eleventh Annual Meeting of
> the Berkeley Linguistics Society*, 408-416. California: Berkeley
> Linguistics Society.
> O'Neill, Gareth. 2014. Humming, whistling, singing, and yelling in
> Pirahã: Context and channels of communication in FDG. In Núria Alturo,
> Evelien Keizer & Llúis Payrató (eds.), *The interaction between context
> and grammar in Functional Discourse Grammar. *Special issue of
> *Pragmatics* 24(2): 349–375.
> Best,
> Riccardo
> Harald Hammarström <harald at bombo.se> escreveu no dia sexta, 28/01/2022
> à(s) 01:54:
>> Hi Ian! There may be a third modality, tactile, attested on the Bay
>> Islands off the Honduran coast where a critical mass of deaf-blind
>> people existed for perhaps three generations. If I understood it
>> correctly,
>> there's a hereditary disease which causes deafness at birth and
>> (gradually)
>> blindness later in life. So this group developed their own rural sign
>> language (Bay Islands Sign Language aka French Harbour Sign Language)
>> which was continued in a tactile modality for those of age. While there
>> is little to no documentation on the actual signs in sign or tactile
>> modality, it seems clear that it is a sign language turned tactile, not
>> a tactile language developed independently of the other modalities. As
>> such
>> it is perhaps not very different from most (all?) sign languages which can
>> be used in a tactile way optionally (e.g., in the dark), without losing
>> too
>> much efficiency. The only difference is that this was possibly used by
>> a community (albeit small) as their main and only means of communication,
>> and as far as I know such a congregation of deaf-blind people is attested
>> nowhere else, and might never happen again. The little information
>> available on the tactile language is due to Ali & Braithwaite (2021) but
>> I understand the genetic background to the disease has been researched
>> for much longer.
>> Of course, I would speculate that if there were a community of humans
>> who, for some reasons, could not use speech/sign/touch they would develop
>> a smell language or a taste language (assuming they could physically
>> produce the required amount of signals at will), so there could be all
>> five modalities corresponding to our senses.
>> all the best, H
>> Ali, Kristian & Ben Braithwaite. (2021) Bay Islands Sign Language: A
>> Sociolinguistic Sketch. In Olivier Le Guen, Josefina Safar & Marie
>> Coppola (eds.), Emerging Sign Languages of the Americas (Sign Language
>> Typology [SLT] 9), 435-438. Berlin: DeGruyter Mouton.
>> Pada tanggal Jum, 28 Jan 2022 pukul 00.15 JOO, Ian [Student] <
>> ian.joo at connect.polyu.hk> menulis:
>>> Dear typologists,
>>> about a year ago, there was a discussion on whether writing is a
>>> linguistic modality of its own right, like spoken or signed modalities.
>>> Although the majority opinion is that writing is simply a reflection of
>>> the spoken modality and not a modality by itself, I argued that written
>>> modality can be independent, based on several factors:
>>>    - The deaf people can learn and write written languages without
>>>    exposure to its spoken form;
>>>    - Some parts of the written modality are untranslatable to speech
>>>    (such as the bullets I am using here);
>>>    - There are languages that have been used almost exclusively in
>>>    written form, such as Classical Chinese, which is incomprehensible when
>>>    read aloud in any spoken language (other than perhaps Old Chinese).
>>> David Gil disagreed and argued that even if deaf person writes a written
>>> language, they are still in some sense communicating in a spoken language,
>>> just in its written form.
>>> For now, let's leave that discussion aside, and say that written
>>> modality is not an independent modality.
>>> The question I would like to ask is: Are there any other linguistic
>>> modalities? Or do we have only two - signed and spoken?
>>> If we have only two modalities, then is it hypothetically possible to
>>> have other modalities?
>>> Or are the two modalities biologically ingrained in our brains, and we
>>> can only truly acquire a language in either signed or spoken form?
>>> To me this seems to be a critical question regarding how we understand
>>> human language, yet to my knowledge, it has been seldom discussed. So I
>>> would appreciate your opinion on this issue.
>>> From Uppsala,
>>> Ian
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