[sw-l] brother and sister

Suzanne Pach suzanne at BORDVOORJEKOP.NL
Mon Jan 31 15:08:34 UTC 2005

Hi Sandy,

I think you are true about the brother-sister thing, but
in Dutch sign language (NGT) this is not the only example
where one sign with a lot of meanings. And it doesn't
really have to do with gender. For example in NGT there
are different signs for 'mother'/'father' or 'man'/'woman'
or 'aunt/ucle' etcetera... But there is for example only
one sign for 'job'/'to work'/'to make'/'to build'/.... or
one sign for 'neighbourhood'/'room'/'garden'/'park' or
there is a sign that means something like 'little things'
and than you use your mouth to distinguish what little
things you are talking about. most times you use Dutch
words to distinguish, and sometimes another 'oral
component'. Of course, many times things will be clear
from the context, especcially by native signers, and maybe
in the future when NGT will be developed and used more,
there will be more different signs , but for now, it is
stil used a lot. And when using SignWriting I think it
will be neccesary to make clear what the mouth is doing,
by using the mundbildschrift or by just writing the spoken
word under it... (but for now there doesn't exist any
Dutch SignWriting, so I can't really check it out...)


> Someone stated earlier on the list that it was almost
> impossible to speak
> Netherlands SL without Dutch lip patterns as NSL doesn't
> distinguish between
> words like "brother" and "sister". I don't agree with this
> - it's like
> saying you can't speak English without French because
> English doesn't
> distinguish between words like "cousin" and "cousine". In
> BSL you get
> problems with hearing people trying to impose gender on
> the language and
> often they'll insist on signing "man-spouse" for "husband"
> and
> "woman-spouse" for "wife" or else using the English mouth
> patterns to
> distinguish, while the fact is that BSL only has spouse
> and this is a fine
> word for it. Not all languages are as obsessed with gender
> as our Western
> European ones - Finnish and Hungarian, for example, don't
> distinguish
> between "he" and "she".
> It seems a bit daft that in these days when there's a
> trend towards trying
> to make English more gender-neutral, English speakers seem
> to be making an
> effort to impose gender-specifics on BSL. No one tries to
> change English to
> say "man-partner" and "woman-partner", so why should
> "spouse" get this
> treatment in BSL?
> Sandy

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