Advantages of ASL GLoss for SignWriting

Dan Parvaz dparvaz at MAC.COM
Sun Mar 28 06:25:35 UTC 2004


Here's my counterpoint to Stephen's point :-)

>1) The sign languages rapidly change

Some things in ASL have rapidly changed, but widely-available media might prove a stabilizing force. What is amazing is that speeches from the 1917 NAD materials are understandable at all. But stuff filmed in the 70s is very readable.

>2) The sign languages have many dialects based on geography

Again, media might well stablilize dialectal variation, as will the increased mobility of the Deaf population.

>However, if ASL Gloss is used along with something like my translation
>program, all of the changes are automatic.

If linguistic change is limited to terminolgical change, that might be the case. It ceratinly might make the text understandable (or "acceptable") across denominations. So if church "A" translates "angel" with a sign denoting a being with wings and another uses the sign comibation "message + agent" (which after all is what Greek angelos and Hebrew mal'akh mean) then there is some limited utility there.

However, the ASL Bible site is (caveat: my opinion) a very literal translation of the King James Version into a variety of ASL strongly informed by English contact. if any terminological change requires change in the phrasing, then the whole work suffers. Take a hypothetical Biblical-sounding phrase "the gospel which we bring to you..." If "gospel" is translated like the ASL sign for "church" only intilized with a "G" handshape, then a gloss like "that gospel, we give-to-you-all" might work, but the second "gospel" is signed "good + inform" (as in "good news") then the sentence needs to be changed to reflect the fact that the sign has the notion of delivering a message built in: "we good + inform-all-of-you? that..."

There is a separate danger (from an ASL literacy perspective) where signs might be perceived as being tied to specific English words. I think this problem has more potential for harm in beginning students (mostly children), where errors in "Deaf English" can be tied to inaccurate sign-gloss associations.

Of course, typimg glosses is certainly easier for me as a hearing person, but I'm not sure that's the point...

Tag-- you're it!


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