[sw-l] signed languages need written forms

Trevor Jenkins trevor.jenkins at SUNEIDESIS.COM
Sat Feb 26 12:43:37 UTC 2005

On Sat, 26 Feb 2005, Shane Gilchrist Ó hEorpa <shane.gilchrist.oheorpa at fran...:

> Coming to think of that, Trevor, my mate have decided to do her MA
> thesis on introducing sign language to national schools (primary
> schools) - she was saying that the sign language rights movement are not
> very good at marketing or publicizing our cases.

Once the BDA gets it's Sign Academy under way and, in my opinion more
importantly, introduces a GCSE in BSL some of the costs for that marketing
can come from other people's budgets.

I know of some (non-Deaf) primary teachers who are trying to raise their
students awareness of BSL. Motivated simply because they think "it's a
good thing".

> As long as we are weak in that area, anti-sign lang organisations such as
> the RNID will triumph.

Sadly so true.

> Can you really blame Reé for being perhaps a bit naïve?

As a well respected philosopher, essayist, commentator, and former
long-standing academic I would expect him not to be naïve. Some of his
arguments on the need for written forms of signed languages as the only
way to sustain those languages flies in the face of historical analysis.
The oral tradition served (ancient) Greek very well with some of its
greatest works, e.g. the Homeric poets producing the Illiad, created 400
years before it was written down; the point I would suggested when the
creative effort stopped we can never know what greater beauty those works
would have had if they had not been written down. Perhaps the only real
requirement for a written form is to ensure that the literature of a
dying/dead culture does not disappear through some Crystalian language

BSL (and I hope NISL) is not a dying language. With 70,000 first language
users and 250,000 second language users BSL is thriving. But there does
not appear to be a parallel signed tradition in BSL except perhaps for the
work of Dorothy Mills and even that we access mostly through video. Maybe
Rachel Sutton-Spence's study of Mills poetry will improve the situation
and we will see (literally) a parallel of an oral tradition for BSL being

> I am sure he do not realize that we are a political minority.

When Rée appeared in a See Hear interview with Jeff McWhinny it seemed as
if he was against all forms of Deaf politics. Though his Prospect essay
does not present that opinion at all.

Regards, Trevor

<>< Re: deemed!

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