AW: Mouthings- question for Stefan

Valerie Sutton sutton at SIGNWRITING.ORG
Fri Sep 5 17:41:41 UTC 2003

SignWriting List
September 5, 2003

Dear SW List, and Stefan, Angus, and Penny -
Thanks for these thoughtful messages, which I think are quite for thought...

Regarding your publication, Penny...One idea would be to try to write
all the mouth movements and positions found in your Stefan's
MundbildSchrift system...we could then use that as a reference manual
for people who want to learn to use MundbildSchrift...

And that would have another added benefit...It would encourage
collaboration between the German-speaking countries...for example...are
you using MundbildSchrift in Switzerland? I know there is so much
happening now...You are starting to teach courses in SignWriting...and
that is different...but some teachers in the schools in Switzerland
might find the MundbildSchrift system useful for their students an added benefit...

Val ;-)


On Tuesday, September 2, 2003, Penny Boyes Braem wrote:

> Hi Valerie, Stefan - and all
> I just got back from a long summer vacation and noticed that there
> have been
> alot of mailings about 'mouthings'.
> Someone might have mentioned this already (I haven't had time to read
> all the
> back-mail in the List), but a European colleague and I published a
> collection
> of articles on this subject two years ago:
> Boyes Braem, Penny & Sutton-Spence, Rachel (Ed.)
> The Hands are the Head of the Mouth: The Mouth as Articulator in Sign
> Languages
> Hamburg: Signum Verlag
> The book is in English and contains contributions from researchers of
> many
> different European (and Indo-Pakistani) sign languages.  Most
> contributions
> talk about both 'mouthings'  (which have resemblances to  the
> pronunciation
> of spoken language words or word parts) and 'mouth gestures' (which
> seem to
> resemble less spoken language words). There are a variety of opinions
> in the
> book about what the function of these mouth elements are, and how best
> to
> descrbe them.
> with best greetings,
> Penny
> Dr. P. Boyes Braem
> Forschungszentrum fuer Gebaerdensprache, Basel
> GS-Media, Zuerich


On Monday, September 1, 2003, Angus B. Grieve-Smith wrote:

>         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
> initialized signs: most likely part of the language but still open to
> debate.
>                                         -Angus B. Grieve-Smith
>                                         Linguistics Department
>                                         University of New Mexico
>                                         grvsmth at
>                                         grvsmth at

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