Role shifting

K.J. Boal kjoanne403 at HOTMAIL.COM
Wed Jul 11 18:02:49 UTC 2007

To: sw-l at majordomo.valenciacc.eduSubject: Re: [sw-l] Role shiftingFrom: CWren at Wed, 11 Jul 2007 08:51:27 -0400
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!I know what you mean, Cherie!  And I think that's a good way of differentiating grammatical expressions from character/emotion expressions.  I just might start doing that myself . . . ::smile::
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.I don't think that would be confused . . . after all, the reader probably wouldn't be misled by the shoulder shift you do write at the beginning.  It wouldn't be a bad way of "bracketing" the roleshift . . . I personally would prefer something more like the quotes, but it could be I'm being influenced by my deeply-ingrained English reading habits!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.I think you're right not to write those shifts.  That could be confusing to the reader.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?  

Would you need to use the shoulder symbol in each sign?  It seems to me there are only two times you need to write the shoulders: 1) when you need to show that the sign is to the right or left on the chest (e.g. CANADA or KING), and 2) when it is important to know that the shoulders have changed position (as in roleshifting).  I would think that writing the shoulder shift or angle symbol at the beginning, and writing it square at the end, would be enough information for the reader.  (I'm liking the "shoulder bracketing" more and more as I think about it . . .)  Just my thoughts, and take them with a grain of salt; I don't have much experience yet reading roleshifts!KJ
Cherie Wren
GSD Staff Interpreter
232 Perry Farm Rd
Cave Spring, GA 30124
706-766-0766 Cell

This message and any included attachments are from the Georgia School for
the Deaf and are intended only for the addressee(s). The information contained
herein may include privileged or otherwise confidential information. If
you have received this message in error, please contact the sender immediately,
and delete it from your system.

"Stuart Thiessen"
<sw at> 
Sent by: owner-sw-l at
07/10/2007 06:19 PM

Please respond to
sw-l at

sw-l at


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.
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).
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
>> it, it might require some "re-reading" initially. But
I think over  
>> time one would say, "Hey, a question is coming up or some
>> 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>

Connect to the next generation of MSN Messenger
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <>

More information about the Sw-l mailing list