Gender different sign languages...Irish Sign Language in SignWritin g

Valerie Sutton sutton at SIGNWRITING.ORG
Sun Feb 15 16:48:43 UTC 2004

SignWriting List
February 15, 2004

Dear SW List, and Neil!
Thank you for this interesting posting. SignWriting is now being used
in Dublin, Ireland, in a series of new books that will teach Irish Sign
Language to hearing people, at Trinity College. The first book is going
to press soon, I believe. But this has nothing to do with the research
project, you mention, Neil. I am glad to know about it, since I could
contact the researhers and put them in touch with the Deaf people
preparing the books in Dublin. The research project could also use
SignWriting to preserve the older dialects of Irish Sign
Language...that is a great idea!

I am no expert on the history of Irish Sign Language, but I remember
learning about the fact that they had residential schools for the deaf,
in Ireland, and that some of those schools were segregated by religion
(Catholic or Protestant) and gender (boys and girls schools). So it
makes sense, that the different schools taught different dialects of
signing...creating quite an interest from the linguistic community!

I will try to get in touch with the researchers, and tell you what

Val ; -)


On Feb 13, 2004, at 3:59 AM, Neil Bauman wrote:

> 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?
> Regards
>                                         Neil
> 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
> Website:

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