AW: Mouthings- question for Stefan

Stefan Woehrmann stefanwoehrmann at GEBAERDENSCHRIFT.DE
Tue Aug 19 21:18:57 UTC 2003

Dear Antony,

I came home and found your long letter.

Thank you very, very much indeed. It is not too often that people take their
time to write such a long comment. In addidition to that I like your
engagement for the "DEAF culture" movement.

Hm - it is not easy to describe what is really going on - and you can bet
that I am the last one who wants to turn back to oralism - !

You are right here in Germany and as well at our facility there has been a
strong politics to focus on articulation, lipreading ... spoken language.
Sign Language has been almost forbidden if you want to trust former

But just as you said - times have changed. Right now we offer German Sign
Language and Signed German - which is preferred by many hearing teacher.

I tried my best to improve my own signing skills in DGS.  When I am invited
to teach SignWriting  or GebaerdenSchrift as we call it here in Germany to
deaf participants  I perform my presentation in
DGS.    When I introduce any new concepts, ideas , informations to my deaf
students  age 8 - 13 - I would choose DGS as well.

On the other hand there is a kind of Exact signed German  (LBG) every spoken
words is signed - word - by - word - I agree with you!  This is often
confusing and too often it is almost redicolous to expect profound deaf
students to understand the idea ...
While reading a German text it helps on the other side to find the unknown
words or to identify misconceptions...

So far so good ;-))

Now guess what!  I looked hours and hours at videos with strong DEAF
storytelling style , talked (signed) to competend Deaf SL - users and
studied SL instruction manuals ...

I see that it seems to be a difficult thing for you to accept this

    - but it is a fact : German SL  includes  a lot of mouthing.

This makes sense. Why? There are too many meanings/possibilities connected
with one sign if you only focus on the manual part.

Of course we do have mouthgestures and other facial expressions as you
describe them as well ! And you are absolutely right - from time to time you
can see signers who do not use as many Mundbilder as others.
Some time before we had a short discussion with Valerie about the  Swiss -
German - "Noah" version  -
Well the deaf woman performs a wonderful signing but there are parts with
more and other with less Mundbilder.

Dear Antony - you wrote :

"No this proves a problem for Stefan.  As the signs of the FSL and the ASL
are similar for similar things (eg chair), but the spoken word is
different....  "

Oh no - I have got no problem with that whatsoever!!!  I am not a kind of
judge who is in the position to make any decision about a good or a better
way of signing !!!

But the longer I deal with SignWriting , the better I understand the power
of MovementWriting the better I can differentiate between different similar
symbols , -

I am only a scribe who tries to collect information and who tries to write
down what he sees.

And believe me - I simply watch some video sequences again and again and
again focusing on different aspects - just because it is too much to
identify the exact handform at the startpostion and the performance of the
mouth at the same time - (this seems to be much easier if you are not in
duty to write a transkription - ha!! )

Nevertheless if it is enough to sign without a mouthing that would be fine
with me - I do not mind if people add mouthing.
I do not like if people play games and do not ask for the meaning if they do
not understand.

Let me put it this way - I would love to discuss this aspect on how to
describe what the mouth is doing in different SL of the world!!
Sometimes it is mouthgesture - sometimes this is kind of speaking without

To be able to express this aspect in a written SW - document is very
important to me.  If the mouthing is an important information  ( as it is -
definitly in German speaking countries) there should be a symbol set that
describes this aspect -- otherwise our document would look like interesting
but hard to understand ;-(((

Thanks once again and I would be sooooooooooooooooooooo  interested to watch
some strong DEAF storytelling videos from Australia -- ( smile --)
Look forward to hearing from you soon

if Stefan teaches children this oralistic way, then for him the mouth
movements are very important.  To educate the Deaf, it has very little

Hi Antony - no - I do not teach them this oralistic way - but I am very,
very engaged to improve the Literacy  in spoken Language !!  In order to
improve the knowledge of the German spoken language the  "Mundbilder " are
very , very supportive!!

All the very best


  -----Urspr ÿÿ gliche Nachricht-----
  Von: SignWriting List [mailto:SW-L at ADMIN.HUMBERC.ON.CA]Im Auftrag von
Antony Daamen
  Gesendet: Dienstag, 19. August 2003 06:06
  Betreff: Re: Mouthings- question for Stefan

        HI Ingvild and Stefan,

        I have been with this site for a while and I would like to add my
2-bobs worth.

        Here in Australia we have Auslan (Australian Sign Language).  This
is the language that the Deaf use, when they are among themselves and that
is their natural language.  Often the signs, don's have an English
equivalent.  The natural sign language of the Deaf is often conceptual, not
a word for word translation of the host language. Host being the language of
the hearing majority in the area where the Deaf live.

        To prove the point, the ASL (American Sign Language) uses a one
handed alphabet and the Auslan uses two handed, eventhough the host language
is both a form of English! Incidently the BSL (British Sign Language) is the
'ancestor' of Auslan and FSL(Frensch Sign Language) the ancestor of ASL.
However all these languages are distinctly different from one another.  The
FSL and ASL are related, but the host language is different!!

        No this proves a problem for Stefan.  As the signs of the FSL and
the ASL are similar for similar things (eg chair), but the spoken word is

        The point is that for the Deaf person that has never heard a word,
the mouthing is a waste of time.  a case in point:  my wife is profoundly
Deaf, but is an excellent lipreader. however, she is very very frustrated by
people mouthing the words and signing at the same time!  She can't watch
both the mouth and the hands at the same time and this only confuses the

        Also hearing people that try to be helpful by using the now
old-fashioned 'Total Communication' well know that if they try to speak and
sign at the same time, either the signing becomes more like the spoken
language grammatically and signs are left out, or the spoken words become
more like the signs grammatically and there will be words left out.....

        Sadly over the last 200years there has been alot of oppression of
the Deaf and their language (Read any book of Harlan Lane, and you will see
what I mean).

        before this time, there were Deaf boarding schools, with Deaf
teachers that used the native Sign Language to educate the Deaf. The
education of the Deaf was very good. This was 'The Golden Age' of the Deaf.
They were able to reach there potential, held jobs, were respected in

        Sadly, Germany, Italy and to a lesser degree England all were in
favour of the Oral method.  While the Deaf schools focussed on giving
information/education, the oral method focussed on speech and then the
information/deucation through there faulty ears....  This has proven to be a
disaster for the Deaf.

        It has been proven that people don't learn a language they acquire
(hope i spelled this right) a language.  so the more they hear a language,
the better their speech clarity and vocabulairy will be...  So students that
are hard or hearing became the 'succes stories' and the true (profoundly)
Deaf, became the 'failures'.  I am sure that Stefan is able to supply
profoundly Deaf people that can speak, however these are deifinitly in the

         The 'Black Day' in Deaf history was the Milan Convention in 1880.
It was then that the educators of the day decided that oralism would be the
way of the future.  Sadly with this, the future of the Deaf was doomed.

        Focussing on speech,then education through speech was the way these
educators would teach the Deaf....   German and Italian educators were at
the forefront of this idea....

        children were being caned, had to sit on their hands, anything to
stop them from signing... It was thought that if they signed they would not
be using their ears and mouth... again Germany, Italy (and Holland, where I
come from) were the most fanatical...

        After 120 years of this oppression of their language it is
amazingthe sign Language survived at all...

        However, after the war there was a blooming of oralism. It was
thought that if we can find a hearing aid strong enough and a speach
therapist persistant enough, the majority of Deaf would be 'normal'

        After 10-20 or whatever years they realised this doesn't work.  So
the (hearing) educators had an idea! Let's take the Sign Language what these
Deaf persist in using, put it in the host language grammatical structure,
make up signs for the words that there are no signs for, speak at the same
time as signing and then the Deaf will know what we are talking about!!
Clever (D'oh)

        So to put this in perspective: Lets take Norwegian spoken language,
put it in German grammar and this will help you to understand German better.
We will only allow one Norwegian word for each German word, and only one
German word for each Norwegian word, and you will be so much better at both
languages.  To make it even clearer, we will speak a German word, then a
Norwegian word and so on!

        That is still being used today and is called (in Australia:)
Sign(ed) English).

        Today, here in Townsville that is the going thought of the local
schools....  So over all these years the Deaf had speech therapy, and lip
reading was sadly the tool they used to try to understand......

        This is the environment Stefan is in.  Probalby the true German Sign
Language is being mixed with the Sign German. I imagine he has a sign for
every equivalent of The (das des dem den, etc), but in the true German Sign
Language there was never a sign for "the" in the first place.  As every Deaf
student is (probably)undergoing speech therapy, the lip patterns are still
very important for the hearing educators, so the Deaf will know what word is
being said (sorry signed).

        As interpreters know very well, the variation of meaning of words in
any language
        For example,we have a sign for "Thank you", but depending on the
context it can also mean "Appreciate." The word appreciate can also convey
the thought of understand.  "I appreciate the meeting is very important to
you", would not be signed with the sign "Thank you", but with the sign for
"understand."  As an interpreter we choose according to the context the
appropriate sign. Mouthing "appreciate" is absolute useless in this case

        In Auslan and also ASL, we do make mouth movements, but these are
unrelated to the spoken words equivalent of the sign.  We have a tight-lips
mouth movement, which convey intensity.  If we use this with the sign for
"near" then it meant "very near". we have a mouthing of the word "pah",
which has many different meanings depending on the signs it is being used.

        So, if Germany still uses Sign German, is still in this oralistic
movement, if Stefan teaches children this oralistic way, then for him the
mouth movements are very important.  To educate the Deaf, it has very little


        -------Original Message-------

        From: SignWriting List
        Date: Monday, August 18, 2003 22:34:20
        Subject: Mouthings- question for Stefan

        Hi Stefan and all,

        on your site , you have a diagram of
        symbols used in Germany.

        Some of the symbols are compoesed of a face/mouth symbol and a hand
        near the mouth.

        If these are used to train German spoken language, I can well

        But as I understand, German Sign Language uses mouthing as part of
        sign language itself, as does Norwegian Sign Language.
        How do you write the mouthing when the hands are otherwise


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