Sophistication of Sign Languages?

Ingvild Roald ingvild.roald at STATPED.NO
Mon Jun 17 19:33:13 UTC 2002

I just read in a master thesis from 1991 on Norwegian SL that the European
signed languages all tended to have more mouthing, whereas the American SL
has more fingerspelling. Two possible explanations were offered: 1) the
strong oral tradition in Europe 2) the dippicult and inconsitent spelling
rules of English. The author proposed to test the two hypotheses by
looking at British SL, but as this was not the theme for her thesis, she
did not do so. Anyway, Norwegian has a large amount of mouthing, I believe
as large as DGS, and we had a heavy oral regime for about 90 years.

Ingvild, Norway

>Hello Susanne, Valerie (behind the scenes), Ilka and friends...
>Well looking at the different SW documents you will see that very often
>will find only a few facial expressions - especially for indicating
>the "mouthing aspect" of the signing.
>Sorry for misunderstanding - I agree -
>"... each signed language has its own rich and unique vocabulary, grammar
>and syntax...and no one signed language is richer or better than another.
> "
>On the other hand - if mouthing should be as important in other SL as it
>seems to be in DGS - I am wondering why other SW documents do not show too
>many of facial expressions regarding mouth-gestures ..
>In Germany we need to write a lot of facial expressions if you really want
>to succeed to translate/understand the written signs -- Most of us are not
>in that situation that we offer SW documents to persons and ask them to
>write the translation down. Only in these cases you would understand how
>difficult it may become to find your way through a unknown SW document -
>My students at school  9th grade have become very skilled to translate
>SW documents - but if I would not add the facial expressions for
>mouthmovements it is almost impossible to pick the exact German word that
>has been associated with the signing performance .
>What I am interested in is to learn about the individual interpretations
>mouth - gestures . As you can see on my website
>decided to define the meaning of facial expressions (mouthing) This can
>be generalised to other spoken languages - - so there are spelling
>ahead that are waiting for our answers
>My students love to lipread these kinds of animated gifs- see attached gif
>"boy and girl articulating "wie viele "  = how many
>These mouthing studies are very helpfull to support to learn lipreading
>German words
>All the best
>Stefan ;-)
>----- Original Message -----
>From: "Valerie Sutton" <Sutton at SIGNWRITING.ORG>
>Sent: Tuesday, June 11, 2002 6:24 PM
>Subject: Sophistication of Sign Languages?
>> SignWriting List
>> June 11, 2002
>> Susanne from Germany wrote:
>> >Secondly: from my informal observations I would not think that ASL is
>> >more sophisticated or elaborate than other sign languages, at least
>> >not it the mentioned respect. My observation is that, in cases where
>> >there could be confusion of the kind that is disambiguated in DGS
>> >mostly through mouthing, ASL makes much more use of fingerspelling
>> >and/or initialized signs. This, just like mouthing in DGS, gives the
>> >context as to what "word" is referred to.
>> Hello Susanne, Stefan, Tini and everyone -
>> How interesting, and yes, Susanne, I agree with everything you said
>> I do not believe that ASL is a more sophisticated language. Judging
>> from what I have seen of different signed languages around the world
>> on videotape and in person, each signed language has its own rich and
>> unique vocabulary, grammar and syntax...and no one signed language is
>> richer or better than another.
>> And you are right, Susanne, about the American tendancy to
>> fingerspell every new technological term that exists - The American
>> Deaf use fingerspelling as a way to introduce new vocabulary into
>> their language. In time, if people have to fingerspell the sign a
>> lot, they slowly develop a sign for that term. Or, the fingerspelling
>> is shortened and becomes a sign in its own right. That is connected
>> with our American culture, but it does not mean it would necessarily
>> be good or natural for other signed languages around the world...
>> This is what I think...In time the world will become more and more
>> global. As we become one big world community, we all will change for
>> the better. More and more cultures will be understood, and who knows?
>> We might even have a global currency...I hope so! (I think it should
>> be called the "globe"...How many globes does it cost? )....;-)))
>> This SignWriting List is an example of how cultures are coming
>> together through global communication. And as globalization evolves,
>> I believe SignWriting will play an important role. No one Sign
>> Language should dominate. Instead, different signed languages should
>> be written, respected and preserved, on an equal basis. Don't you
>> think?...
>> --
>> Val ;-)
>> Valerie Sutton
>> Sutton at
>> SignWritingSite
>> Read & Write Sign Languages
>> SignBankSite
>> Sign Language Dictionaries
>> DanceWritingSite
>> Read & Write Dance
>> MovementWritingSite
>> Read & Write Movement & Gesture
>> Deaf Action Committee for SignWriting
>> Center For Sutton Movement Writing
>> an educational nonprofit organization
>> Box 517, La Jolla, CA, 92038-0517, USA
>> tel: 858-456-0098....fax: 858-456-0020

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