Role shifting

Stuart Thiessen sw at PASSITONSERVICES.ORG
Tue Jul 10 22:19:22 UTC 2007

Well, we can use other marks that indicate what is going on, but I  
would prefer to let the facial expressions and other non-manuals  
already in ASL do the work as much as possible.

For example, I am curious to see if maybe we simply need the period  
symbol and then let the ASL facial expressions handle the questions,  
exclamations, etc.  If that works, then the "period" only means end  
of sentence. We can let the non-manuals handle what kind of sentence  
(statement, question, command, etc.)  I am not saying that we do not  
need the punctuation symbols. But we should check to make sure if we  
do or not.

Some languages like English only use intonation (variation in pitch)  
to indicate questions. Some languages actually have changes in the  
words themselves or they have specific question words that indicate  
that the sentence is a question. For English, since the words  
themselves do not change, we need punctuation to show the difference  
between a statement and a question since you can have a statement and  
a question and the only difference is the intonation. For example,  
look at these three sentences.

(1) You went there.
(2) You went there?
(3) You went there!

(4) Why did you go there?
(5) Why did you go there.
(6) Do you want to go to the store.

Sentences 1-3 require punctuation because we can't figure out the  
meaning of the sentence without knowing its intonation.  
Theoretically, English doesn't need the question mark for sentence 4  
because the word "why" clearly indicates that it is a question. Even  
though I used a period, you can still understand sentence 5 or 6  
because it has the word "why" or the word "do". Both of those words  
signal a question. But it is now the standard practice in written  
English to add the question mark to all questions even if it is  
obviously a question because of sentences like #1-3.

But my belief is that ASL facial expressions are not intonations, but  
"markers" that actually modify the sign (or a sequence of signs). So  
my theory is that ASL may not need punctuation in the same way that  
English does. But that needs to be tested. This may be true for other  
sign languages. But we may have to test it on a language by language  
basis. Each community will have to decide how it wants to handle  
these kinds of situations.



On 10 Jul 2007, at 16:27, Valerie Sutton wrote:

> On Jul 10, 2007, at 2:09 PM, Stuart Thiessen wrote:
>> I should also add that because some of these facial expressions  
>> that "spread" over a sequence of signs is predictable to users of  
>> a sign language, it will become easily read. Until you are used to  
>> it, it might require some "re-reading" initially. But I think over  
>> time one would say, "Hey, a question is coming up or some other  
>> commonly used feature is coming up." and then read it easily  
>> because it is helping you predict what is coming. So that  
>> linguistic knowledge that is available to a user of a sign  
>> language will work alongside the movement writing to make it easy  
>> to read.
> Sure. You probably are right. I will be interested to see how  
> readers do with the Unit Lines, to see if they comprehend them well...
> If so, I will need you to teach me exactly how you use them with  
> vertical columns, because I had trouble writing them personally...
> While you brought up the subject of writing questions, and knowing  
> if a question is coming or not, we actually do have other  
> alternatives that could be used, but I am not asking you to do  
> anything, and we have never tested or used these at all...just a  
> thought...
> This could be a good research project for someone someday...
> The other alternatives are the Question Mark punctuation symbols,  
> that can be put at the beginning and end of a sentence...this also  
> can warn you that the entire sentence is a question.
> We also have Quote Symbols inside Period Symbols! I have no  
> idea...has anyone ever used these?
> Maybe in a few days I can show you how I thought they might be used...
> <Picture 2.png>

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