[sw-l] LIBRAS

Charles Butler chazzer3332000 at YAHOO.COM
Thu Feb 3 06:29:13 UTC 2005

Hello folks,

This is Charles Butler, and I am speaking from limited experience here about LIBRAS, the national sign language of Brail.  I worked with the Deaf of Pelotas, Porto Alegre, and briefly Sao Paulo, Brasil.

!) Lingua Brasileira de Sinais (LIBRAS) is the national sign language of Brazil.  It was originally called, by law, Linguagem Brasileira de Sinais, making it an "idiom" or a "dialect" not a true language.  FENEIS (The National Association of the Deaf) of Brazil worked very hard to change the laws of Brasil to reflect "lingua" not "linguagem" as the change in law made LIBRAS subject to the same laws governing all other "mother tongues" in Brazil.  As a "mother tongue" of a "linguistic minority," a child has the right to learn to read and write his or her own native language in addition to the national language of Portuguese.

2) FENEIS, in its first national conference in 2001, voted to accept Sign Writing as the preferred form of recording of LIBRAS in its many dialects, and to strongly encourage the public school system (starting in kindergarten and graduate school) to teach it as a subject, like any other writing system.  There are now many pilot projects all over Brazil.  My working partner, Marianne Stumpf, is working in one of them in Florianapolis.  There are some pictures available on the signwriting.org Web site.

3) While I was in Brazil, I began to work on a dictionary of LIBRAS of about 750 words.  Some of that dictionary is available through the University of Pelotas, but due to the fact that the signs were saved as .jpgs, they became corrupted easily through several generations of transmission.  I have a backup disk here at home somewhere, but I am slowly, very slowly, putting them into the SignBank listing for Brasil.  (Brasil is the preferred spelling in Brasil).

4) In addition, Fernando Capovilla is publishing a true encyclopedia of Sao Paulo's dialect of LIBRAS (it's a multi-volume series).  I saw it in draft form in Sao Paulo in 2000, and it encouraged me to work on going back to Brasil to work in 2001.

5) LIBRAS is at the educational point that ASL was about 20 years ago.  There are many dialects across Brasil.  I observed at least 5 signs for "GREEN" and 4 for "MOTHER" and two for "FATHER."  Interpreters are taught by the Deaf, so they pick up the accent of their region.  There are many loan signs or equivalents from ASL, but the languages are definitely different languages.  I learned sufficient to puzzle through in the time I was there, using a very strange pidgin of LIBRAS, ASL, Portuguese, and English.  I don't know what to call the Portuglish/LIBRASL dialect I offered the many Deaf friends I made.

6) The observation I made about "leprechaun" was from my discussion with the Deaf in Pelotas. I had bought a copy of Harry Potter in Portuguese, figuring that was the fastest way to get extensive, if arcane, vocabulary under my belt.  Harry Potter has dwarves, kobolds, goblins, and all sorts of other creatures.  They chose to translate "goblin" as "duende (small one, an exact translation of leprechaun)" and with the discussion that has happened here, goblins may be closer to leprechauns than the friendly creatures that people in the United States are used to.  I made a faux pas in a speech at the conference about "pequeno masculino" rather than "pequeno homem" and startled my interpreter.  "Masculino" is a sexual reference, homem is a gender reference.  OOPS!.

7) My experience with SW and LIBRAS was enhanced by the fact that I knew at least some sign shorthand, which I used to great effect in transcribing speeches at the FENEIS conference.  I could write lecture notes and pick up major themes in a quick handwriting, so that I could go back and refer to the signs later in discussion.  My writing may have been my reduction of Signed Handwriting to some variant of Signwriting Shorthand, but it served the purpose of exposing the Deaf at the convention to truly using SW in everyday settings.

That's all for now.

Charles Butler

Shane Gilchrist � hEorpa <shane.gilchrist.oheorpa at francismaginn.org> wrote:

Can you tell us more about LIBRAS?

I don�t know if u did say anything about it but please do let me know,


From: owner-sw-l at majordomo.valenciacc.edu
[mailto:owner-sw-l at majordomo.valenciacc.edu] On Behalf Of Charles Butler
Sent: 02 February 2005 18:39
To: sw-l at majordomo.valenciacc.edu
Subject: RE: [sw-l] Sign for Leprechaun?

The sign for leprechaun in LIBRAS is "small person with pointy ears", but
unfortunately "duende" can also be translated, dwarf, hobbit, or several
other creatures, and a Vulcan is a large person with pointy ears.

Such are the beauties of mythological creatures.  Making "small person in
green with pointy ears" might make leprechaun, but I'm not Irish.  I will be
curious to know.

Charles Butler

Sandy Fleming wrote:

Sorry, this message was meant for Shane only! :)


> -----Original Message-----
> From: owner-sw-l at majordomo.valenciacc.edu
> [mailto:owner-sw-l at majordomo.valenciacc.edu]On Behalf Of Sandy Fleming
> Sent: 02 February 2005 15:52
> To: sw-l at majordomo.valenciacc.edu
> Subject: [sw-l] Sign for Leprechaun?
> Shane,
> A friend of mine is asking me for a sign for "leprechaun" for her deaf
> child - do you know one you could teach me, by any chence? :)
> Sandy

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