AW: [sw-l] facial expressions - Mundbilder

Stefan Wöhrmann stefanwoehrmann at GEBAERDENSCHRIFT.DE
Sun Jul 9 10:14:02 UTC 2006

Hi Sandy, Shane, Valerie, ... whoever is interested in writing these
"Mundbilder" of SL

Sandy wrote ..."As one of the many learners who are practising to eradicate
English lip patterns from their own BSL, I certainly wouldn't introduce it
into my SignWriting!..." 

Well - Sandy, that may be one of the many differences between the two of us
- smile - I do not want to eradicate anything from SL - all I want is to
write what I see! SignWriting is a special branch of Movement Writing which
includes movement of the mouth, lips, tongue ... 

Of course - and I feel almost tired to write it again and again - there are
facial expressions, and mouth-gestures in true deaf story telling episodes
and I understand perfectly that you have to distinguish between these
"mouth-gestures" that are not related to words of the spoken language and
the "Mundbilder" that should allow lipreading. 

And I learned from many, many messages that there are SignLanguages in the
world that do not include this voiceless articulation of words taken from
the spoken language. And I have no problem with that - even from time to
time signers from this background show up with "mouthing"-movements ... in
special situations (e.g. if they sign the topic - or if they sign for video
... ??? ) 

Well I am not sure whether I am the only teacher in the world (!!!?) who
believes in improving literacy in DEAF students while including SW-documents
- written in DGS  and (!!!) signed German into his curriculum. I believe in
the fact that the students develop higher skills in spoken language because
they have to take care that they understand a given message. And it is a bi
difference just to answer a question or to translate the question and to
answer it in a written form. 

I never could believe before what an outstanding job my deaf students are
doing if they translate the written SignWriting documents in written German.

So many new words, so many aspects of grammar have to be learned. And it
takes so much time. And it is so difficult ... and they have to construct
the spoken German text from what they already have learned. And they have to
accept that it is so difficult to keep all the spelling and grammar aspects
in mind. ... and they try again and again ... They translate whole stories,
questionnaires, vocabulary lists ... 

And yes it is so obvious that the hard of hearing or those students who are
able to develop more and more hearing due to a functioning CI in a
surrounding where SL supports them to understand what we are signing/talking
about, take so much more advantage ....

Well what I can tell - the higher the level of competence in both languages
(Sign Language  and Spoken Language) the less the students are dependent on
complete sequences of Mundbilder.

On the other hand - there is no reason whatsoever to become nervous if there
are SL in the world - (as German Sign Language =DGS) that depend in a quite
substantial percentage on the performing of mouthmovements as if speaking
German words without voice.   These "Mundbilder" are part of this SL. 

Therefore you would not describe this performance accurately enough if you
deliberately would cut this part of the message out. 

I understand though - that for some reason this question becomes a matter of
"political correctness" or even a question of "true Deaf language and
culture" versus "paternalism and influence of hearing teachers" 

Well from my point of view I would rather focus on the purpose of the
document. As long as you do not write a document with the purpose to allow
the reader to translate it into any other language - there is no need to
worry about the exact "Mundbilder" or the exact meaning. 

But for some other reasons my daily experience teaches me that these
Mundbilder are badly needed in order to support the learner! 

Learning a spoken language for deaf students with no "mother
tongue"-language is hard enough! So any aspect that might lift their
motivation is very welcome. 

Some of you who joined the list in the last 2-3 years will find many many
more messages about this subject in the archives. And it has been discussed
emotional all the time - smile! 

Stefan ;-)  
PS. ... and Shane -- no they would not fire me - smile - if I would cut out
the Mundbilder. smile So it is my freedom as the scribe of SignWriting
documents and almost nobody cares - there are only very few deaf students in
our school. The majority is hard of hearing and even pretty well hearing ...

-----Urspr√ľngliche Nachricht-----
Von: owner-sw-l at
[mailto:owner-sw-l at] Im Auftrag von Sandy Fleming
Gesendet: Sonntag, 9. Juli 2006 09:20
An: sw-l at
Betreff: Re: [sw-l] facial expressions

Hi All!!

Here in the south of England the "oral" English features of BSL go on a 
spectrum amongst different signers. Some apply English "keywords" to 
every single sign, some only keyword a selection of signs, some keyword 
only those signs which they feel they can make more specific by 
keywording, some keyword only fingerspelling, and some use no English at 

This seems to me to depend strongly on the sort of education a person 
got, and education for the Deaf in England being a rather confused 
affair, all sorts of signing styles can be seen.

On the whole, strong keywording isn't much liked, even amongst people 
who habitually use it. It slows the signing, interferes with native BSL 
mouth patterns and even mood indicators, discourages the use of visual 
aspects of the language, and places higher demands on the listeners' 
concentration. People with Usher's can have a very hard time of it.

As one of the many learners who are practising to eradicate English lip 
patterns from their own BSL, I certainly wouldn't introduce it into my 


Ingvild Roald wrote:

> Well, as one of the northern Europeans,
> and one transcribing from natie signers' videos, I must say that at 
> least in  Norway, there are two types of neccessay information give by 
> the face:
> 1:there are the 'non-manuals', the special facial expressions 
> belonging to Norwegian SL itself, and
> 2: there are the mouthing movement stemming from borrowing from 
> Norwegian spoken language. Norwegian signers tend to focus on the 
> mouth, with the hands and the eybrows etc etc being in more of a 
> side-view.
> In addition to these two main informations given by the face, there is 
> also, as Val said, information about the mood, so, yes, the face is 
> very important.
> Ingvild

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