Gender different sign languages

Fri Feb 13 11:59:31 UTC 2004

Hi all:

This is not specifically on Signwriting--but I thought it very interesting.
Hadn't heard of signed languages that were almost totally different between
men and women before.

Here is the article on the subject.

Grant aids sign language research

University Wire; 2/10/2004; Sarah Thigpen

(Daily Forty-Niner) (U-WIRE) LONG BEACH, Calif. --

  For many people around the world, sign language is the only connection
between their silent world, and others around them.

Because of the differences in culture around the world, some of the
original versions of sign language are being lost due to the fact that the
only keepers of the language, the speakers themselves, are old and dying.
One of these versions is an ancient form of gender Irish Sign Language.

For Barbara LeMaster, an anthropology and linguistics professor at Cal
State Long Beach, help is on the way. LeMaster has recently been given a
$74,482 grant from The National Science Foundation. This grant enables
LeMaster to continue her research on a form of sign language originated in
Dublin, Ireland.

LeMaster, an expert of deaf culture, began her research of Irish Sign
Language almost 20 years ago. Unfortunately, LeMaster was unable to return
to Ireland until three years ago to continue her research.

As a result of this grant, LeMaster will be returning to Ireland in July in
conjunction with her research.

No documented language, spoken or signed, has as extreme gender differences
as [Irish Sign Language]," LeMaster said. "I'm interested in how different
the two gender languages are from each other, and how the genders resolve
those differences."

According to LeMaster, in certain sections of the Dublin community, the
native vocabularies for deaf men and deaf women are so different that they
can impair communications on the most mundane topics. This is a result of
men and women going to different schools to learn the language.

According to LeMaster, the documentation of gender Irish Sign Language is
important for a number of reasons.

"Unlike other gender different situations, these gender varieties are the
product of language socialization experiences that completely segregated
males and females," LeMaster said. "As though deaf girls and boys grew up
on separate islands."

LeMaster does have one benefit that she did not have when she began this
journey 20 years ago. Modern technology has made it easier for researchers
to study, record and preserve rare languages that are rapidly disappearing.
With the help of computers, LeMaster can look at different signs for the
same word at the same time.

"It's my goal to create a DVD dictionary of gendered Irish Sign Language so
that anyone may access it," LeMaster said.

This 15-month grant gives LeMaster a chance to complete the work that she
began so long ago. Once her dictionary is completed, any future work
tracking the dissemination of these gendered signs and meaning will always
be associated with LeMaster.

Wonder if LeMaster is going to use SW as a way of storing the information
on her computer? Anyone on the list know this person?



Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
Center for Hearing Loss Help
49 Piston Court
Stewartstown, PA 17363
Phone: (717) 993-8555
FAX: (717) 993-6661
Email: neil at

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