Role shifting

Adam Frost icemandeaf at GMAIL.COM
Wed Jul 11 14:45:12 UTC 2007

That was something I noticed when I was reading your draft. I had a hard time noticing when the quoting stopped. Especially when you went back to the narrator. Maybe the placing of the shoulders would help. Hmm, that gets me thinking. What would it do for the flow of reading if we used the quote symbols to close out the phrase or what not as well as all of the ASL grammer rules for role shifting, eye gazing, lane placement, etc with the understanding that initial character information stays until the end quote or otherwise noted. This way we can still keep the ASL clearity of who is talking to whom as well as make it clear when the talking ends rather than wondering if the person just changed who they were talking to. "Interesting. Ponder on this I will." (I'm quoting Yoda from Star Wars for those of you who don't know.) And after I have played around with this, I will give you all a few examples to see what you all think. 


-----Original Message-----
From: CWren at

Date: Wed, 11 Jul 2007 08:51:27 
To:sw-l at
Subject: Re: [sw-l] Role shifting

One thing I've noticed myself doing is reserving two of the eyebrow faces almost exclusively for grammar.  The one with eyebrows up is for topics and yes/no questions, the eyebrows down is for wh-questions.  The other eyebrows are for 'intonation' where I am taking on a speaker's character, or showing some emotion connected to what I am signing.  But, with only a couple of exceptions, eyebrows up and eyebrows down, to me, signal grammar.  Something like that  helps I think, because you would be able to separate out the grammatical information from the other stuff more easily.  ASL just carries SO MUCH information on the face! 
As I am doing tons of roleshifting with the Cat, I have been thinking about something like quotes, where I signal with a symbol that this set of facial expressions or this body position starts here,  and down a ways another symbol saying it ends here. But I'm not sure that is the best solution, just one possible one.  I have been reloading the previous sign I just wrote, and deleting everything but the faces for a lot of what I'm writing, because the fish is always worried and the cat is always cheerfully optimistic.   I have been using the lanes for roleshifting, and the "shoulder shift" to signal the start of roleshifting.  If that starts the roleshift, and you write in the appropriate lane, then when I shift back to center, I have been just moving the signs back to the center lane.  Maybe if I added a shoulder line to signal the shoulders go back to square?  I haven't done that, because I would not want to mislead the reader into thinking that the shoulders are important !
 to this individual sign... when they just end the roleshift.  There have been instances where I am in a roleshift, but I face strongly right, then turn and face more forward while still in the roleshift.  I don't think I have showed that, for fear of misleading someone that I am done speaking for the character.  But I have been writing the signs off to one side or the other, depending on who's speaking...  that is the crux of it for me, I think.  I have been doing that because I AM signing to one side, but does that unnecessarily complicate things?  If I use the shoulder shift symbol or the shoulder angle symbol (since after the initial shift they don't move again, just stay at that angle) in each sign, and write the sign itself as if my shoulders were square, would that make it easier to read?   

 Cherie Wren
 GSD Staff Interpreter
 232 Perry Farm Rd
 Cave Spring, GA 30124
 706-766-0766 Cell
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 "Stuart Thiessen" <sw at> 
Sent by: owner-sw-l at 
07/10/2007 06:19 PM 
Please respond to
 sw-l at 
To sw-l at 
Subject Re: [sw-l] Role shifting 
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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