AW: [sw-l] Writing Mouth Movements in Different Cultures

Stefan Wöhrmann stefanwoehrmann at GEBAERDENSCHRIFT.DE
Fri Jan 28 05:56:15 UTC 2005

Anthony wrote ..
"I hope this was enlightening...."

I loved to read your message! Thanks for your energy and time!

Stefan ;-)
  -----Urspr√ľngliche Nachricht-----
  Von: owner-sw-l at
[mailto:owner-sw-l at]Im Auftrag von Antony Daamen
  Gesendet: Freitag, 28. Januar 2005 05:03
  An: sw-l at
  Betreff: RE: [sw-l] Writing Mouth Movements in Different Cultures


        Here in Australia, there are two main language modes, (including
oral three). One is the "pure" Auslan the other is Signed English (SE)

        Sign English is one word = one sign regardless of the context.  So
Deafpeople sign the sign for "to plant" = verb also for (the) plant = noun
regardless if this plant is a factory or part of the flora !!  As you may
realise this is not very good for their comprehension of either English or
the world around Them!!  In this language mode mouthing the words are very
important.  sometimes they have one sign, that may have different shades of
meaning....  So when they read/sign some English part they often also
attempt to mouth the words to identify the diffference...  However, as their
English leaves (this is signed as leaves of a tree!) alot to be
desired...(signed as desire (want!!)), they often sign a word that is
written similarly, but have a different meaning: story (in a book), storey
(levels in a building) are both signed as story...  confusing for poor me,
the interpreter. Is she talking about three stories of Noah or the three
storeys of the ark?

        Surrender has been signed as surround....  Poor interpreter!!

        Ok Auslan is totally different.  the signing uses signing space to
explain the meaning of the word.  So it is very clear if it is story or

        In Auslan mouth movements are also being used... However they never
mouth the words!  Deaf don't know what words sound like or how to speak
(talking very very generally), so why mouth them?

        However certain mouth movements are very important for the meaning
of the sign:

        We have the "pah" mouth movement = is used for emphasis.  we have
the "accomplish' sign. but with the "pah" mouth movement it becomes more
intense like "at last! finished!!"

        We have the "grimace" facial expression this is used for "very near"
        We have the "mmmm" facial expression/ mouth movement for medium
distance away
        we have the "far away look" (look in distance,. mouth slightly open)
for things very very far away...

        we have the "question mark" facial expresion:
        The Yes/no facial expression: Eye brow raized, head slighly tilted.
"Do you want to marry me?"

        We have the "wh" facial expression (why where etc): Eye brows
lowered head slighly down. "Why would I marry you?"

        Interestingly "How are you?" (wh question) is with raised eyebrows
because the litteral translation of the sentence is "(Is your) health well?"
or more colloqial (are you healthy?)......

        We have more, but this gives you an idea.....

        Now, to confuse matter even further, their are many people here that
have had a Sign Enlish schooling, but when they finsihed school and met
other Deaf, they learned Auslan.  these use a mixture.  these will voice the
language (often not very clear), while they are signing, they often use
something similar to Auslan grammar, the most natural to use, but sprinkle
SE signs (to, the, at,as .....) through the conversation...  Poor

        The older generation uses mainly fingerspelling!!  They were taught
the Rochester method...  So they use 70-90% fingerspelling and sprinkle some
Auslan signs through this.  For example they might fingerspell plane, then
sign the sign for plane flying from whereever. They also tend to fingerspell
words in auslan grammar, and thus leave the to, and, at etc. out.... poor
        These use very little facial expressions.......

        In Europe -where the battle oral-Sign language has been the fierest
and -sadly- oral dominated the Deaf education for a long time... mouth
movements has become very important.. also things like a sign for Wienen
being "to cry" because it sound similar... How do Deafknow what something
"sound like", that is -for me- a clear sign of oppression of language.  The
hearing educators telling the Deaf what to singn.....

        this is very sad and a loss of the richnessof the local Sign

        However, similar has happened here:   The sign for Sydney is the
Harbour Bridge....   In contrast the sign for Perth is the American (GRRRRR)
letter P.....

        From memory Antwerp has Manneke Piss, so maybe the sign for Antwerp
could relate to this famous landmark (cheeky sorry!)

        I hope this was enlightening....


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