AW: AW: Mouthings- question for Stefan

Stefan Woehrmann stefanwoehrmann at GEBAERDENSCHRIFT.DE
Tue Sep 2 21:56:34 UTC 2003

Hi Angus,

thanks for your message -

what I can contribute is the following - I am coming from a practical point
of view.

What I am doing at this point is just looking at strong deaf storytelling
signing -

Does not matter - on TV, in video-tapes and in real life -.... and in my
interest to transcribe the performance as exact as possible I developed more
and more interest to describe the Mundbilder as well that go along with the
manual signing.

So - my question - if DEAF persons sign with these Mundbilder in order to
express their ideas in SL  there cannot be a doubt that these Mundbilder are
indisputably a part of the language - what do you think. And if this is the
case it is worthwhile and helpful to pay more attention to the transcription
of Mundbilder in SW -

Stefan ;-))

-----Ursprungliche Nachricht-----
Von: SignWriting List [mailto:SW-L at ADMIN.HUMBERC.ON.CA]Im Auftrag von
Angus B. Grieve-Smith
Gesendet: Dienstag, 2. September 2003 04:23
Betreff: Re: AW: Mouthings- question for Stefan

        Not knowing anything about the relevant Northern European sign
languages, I'm going to accept the consensus on mouthings.  But this
statement of Stefan's caught my eye.  I'm afraid I haven't read any of the
academic literature on mouthings at this point.

On Tue, 19 Aug 2003, Stefan Woehrmann wrote:

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

        This is interesting, because in some of the SignSynth work, we
have had difficulty finding minimal pairs in ASL, let alone homophones.
All of the words in ASL that could be argued to have different meanings
usually turn out to be polysemous, or just to have a range of meanings
that overlaps with more than one English word.

        This is different from English homophones like [be:r], which can
be the noun "bear," meaning a creature, the verb "bear," meaning to carry,
or the adjective "bare," meaning uncovered (and various polysemes of the
above).  In the English case the homophones derive from three Old English
roots that had different pronunciations, and all came to be pronounced the
same after the Great Vowel Shift.

        Often times the Signed English types have created a series of
"initialized signs" where the orientation and movement are the same, but
the handshape varies depending on the English translation.  For example,
there's an ASL sign that refers to groups of objects, and out of this a
number of signs have been created with the G handshape for "group," the C
handshape for "class," the T handshape for "team," etc.  I'm sorry I don't
have time to write it out, but I think they're in the ASL dictionary.

        Some of the initialized signs are clearly hearing inventions and
are never used outside of dictionaries.  Others are widely used by native
signers in conversational ASL, and then there's a whole middle ground
which is debated.  Some purists reject all but a few initialized signs,
while other signers use a lot more.

        I think that this situation is handled in DGS with Mundbilder, but
are there other instances that are true homophones with different
meanings, like English [be:r]?  If so, then the Mundbilder are
indisputably a part of the language, but if not they are more like the ASL
initialized signs: most likely part of the language but still open to

                                        -Angus B. Grieve-Smith
                                        Linguistics Department
                                        University of New Mexico
                                        grvsmth at
                                        grvsmth at

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