Ottenheimer Chapter 5 Silent Languages
Ottenheimer Chapter 5
Languages Sign Languages 1
For many years it was thought that sign language is not true language. Obviously this is not correct and reflected linguistic ideology, a stereotype concerning sign languages.
The specific name used to label the concept that only spoken language is real language is the term orality. The consequence of orality was that the education in the Deaf community overly emphasized lip-reading, fingerspelling and speaking.
The Deaf community
Hearing people often use gestures as they speak and often develop complex alternative sign languages, but these later are limited.
The sign languages of Deaf people are as complex and as complete as any spoken language
The term sign language refers to language performed in three-dimensional space.
As with any other language, topics and contexts are unlimited
Syntax is complex, unique to specific language.
ASL can be compared to Manually Coded English which is an artificial language, one where the structure of spoken English is used.
William Stokoe, in 1960, published Sign language structure, wherein he provided linguistic analysis of ASL.
History of American Sign Language (ASL)
Developed from French Sign Language and was brought to the US in 1816.
Two persons are credited with the development of ASL: Thomas Gallauder and Laurent Clerc; they used Old Signed French as the starting point.
There is evidence that indigenous sign languages of the Northeast may also have been incorporated.
These developers began teaching what they called Old Signed English at the first American school for the deaf in Hartford, Connecticut.
Sign Languages 2
Each developed independently; they are mutually unintelligible; not based on English syntax
By the 1880s there was a shift to the new oral approach and more emphasis on the ability to speak with the hearing and the Deaf community was pushed to be bilingual. Used ASL within the community and Manually Coded English with the hearing community.
Stokoe is created with the shift away from this model to an acknowledgement of ASL as its own language.
American Sign Language structure
ASL is 1) structured differently than spoken English; 2) the grammar is not the same. In all complete sign languages, signs stand for concepts, not for words.
In English the word ‘right’ has two meanings: ‘correct’ and ‘opposite of left’.
In ASL there are two separate signs, each with its separate meaning.
Handedness makes a difference in ASL; the sign may differ in that one signs with one’s dominant hand
Along with the hand gesture is often facial gesture such as eyebrow raising or nose wrinkle.
A single sign may stand for a phrase or an entire sentence.
Example: “I-ask-her” is one sign in ASL. It is 3 separate words in English. English speakers often make this mistake: I “I-ask-her” her.
ASL grammar is not the same as in English
Sentences are organized by Time-Topic-Comment structure rather than Subject-Verb-Object (SVO) structure: “Day-past me eat banana.’ rather than ‘I ate a banana yesterday.’
In ASL words such as why or what are at the end of the sentence, but at the start in English: ‘He buy what?’ rather than ‘What did he buy?’
Sign Languages 3
Manually Coded Sign Languages
According to Wilt (2007), about 3% live in households where both parents are deaf. In response, artificial languages were created by hearing persons in order to teach spoken English to members of the Deaf community.
Two versions of Manually Coded Sign Languages are SEE1 (Seeing Essential English) (created in 1962 by David Anthony) and SEE2 ( Signed Exact English) (developed from SEE1 by Gerilee Gustason, Esther Zawolkow, and Donna Pfetzing in the early 1970s).
Follows English syntax and requires direct replacement of English word with a gesture.
This differs from languages, such as ASL, that sign the concept and not the English word.
While ASL is a language. SEE1 and SEE2 are ways to sign American English.
ASL is a visual-gestural language; American English is auditory
Not comfortable for the ASL user and the translations are often cumbersome.
Watch this YouTube video for a summary.
is no single, universal sign language.
A causal search of the Internet suggests that around 100 sign languages exist
There was an attempt in the 1950s to create such a language, Gestuno.
It was modeled after the concept of Esperanto.
When it was introduced in the 1970s, the Deaf community found too hard to understand; it was a committee-created language.
Describing and Analyzing Signs
It is important to remember that sign languages are performed in 3-D space (4D if you count time).
The term, coined by Stokoe, that equates to the concept of a phoneme is the term he called a chereme.
Each of these terms referred to the same concept: There are the smallest unit of sound (gesture) that makes a difference in meaning in a language.
Another term used was prime.
Today, the terms prime and chereme are not used, as phoneme represents the understanding that sign languages share structure with spoken languages.
Three kinds of phonemes in sign languages
Dez: the hand shape and orientation. Common dez are shown in Figure 5.1 [Fist (A), Flat (B), Cupped (C), Index finger (D)].
Tab: Hand placement.
Sig: Hand movement.
Apple vs candy (shape: fist hand vs cupped hand).
Summer vs ugly (place: forehead vs nose level).
See example here.
Sign Languages 4
Change and variation in sign languages
As with any language ASL changes over time and between regions.
Examples include how to sign for cheese and for Halloween in different parts of the US.
Different forms of sign language popped up in Ireland due to the segregation of early schools for the deaf.
Differences in levels of politeness/casualness are noted.
Slang develops among younger students.
Nicaraguan Sign Language film clip is an example of the invention of a new sign language.
Ideologies of signing
There are many examples of orality that the Deaf community experience.
One example is the story of the deaf man thought to be a spy during the Civil War.. Because he could fingerspell he was saved from being hung.
Another example is the very significant debate over the use of cochlear implants.
The power of orality is also shown through the example that UW will accept ASL as a world language, but not other forms of deaf signing.
Does modality matter?
Modality refers to the physical ‘channel’ through which a language is expressed.
Spoken languages use an oral/aural modality while sign languages use a visual-gestural modality
The question is whether the differences in modality create different views of the world?
Gestures & Nonverbal Communication 1
Different cultures and different speech communities use different kinds of gestures to mean different kinds of things.
To learn a new language, one must also learn that culture’s set of gestures and meanings.
You must know their nonverbal communication
Gestures accompany speech in spoken languages while in gestural languages gestures are essential parts of messages.
Nonverbal communication is the process of transmitting messages without spoken words. Sometimes this is called body language, nonverbal communication is a category with some ‘fuzzy boundaries’.
Most researchers would include facial expressions, gestures, gaze and posture.
Recently, a family member suggested to her daughter to learn how to stand confidently.
She suggested she practice standing akimbo before entering a room.
Some would include the way we use the space around us to communicate.
Still others include hair styles, adornment, clothing, shoes, and other communication props.
Some include various kinds of restricted signaling systems (nautical flags, and scuba-diving sign systems.
And some include the kinds of signs used by deaf people, even though sign languages are generally independent language systems and not just substitutes for spoken language.
Non-words like tsk-tsk and oooh are placed in nonverbal communication by some.
Finally, taste, touch, and smell can play a role in nonverbal communication.
Gestures & Nonverbal Communication 2
Learning nonverbal communication
Estimates vary, but at least 60% of our messages are sent nonverbally.
Perhaps nonverbal can even override verbal messages.
Generally believed that nonverbal communication is learned by participating in social groups.
Both the learning and the interpretation of these signals are to a great extent learned unconsciously.
So the question becomes is some nonverbal communication universal and innate?
The author goes on to caution us about the value of self-help books and body-language-across-cultures kinds of books. She sees them as simplistic and even inaccurate.
Smell, taste, and touch as nonverbal systems
Different smells can communicate different meanings to different persons.
In 2006, in San Francisco, an ad company infused a few bus stops with the scent of chocolate chip cookies
They intended to prompt people to want a glass of milk.
Guess what people wanted?
Think about how much money is spent in America to remove body odors (even clean body odor) and replace them with the smells of flowers, woody smells and musk (the body oils of other animals).
Smells can communicate status or membership in special classes.
The smell of cigar smoke often evokes thoughts of money.
The smell of patchouli in my office evokes countless jokes about the 1960s or insect repellent.
Gestures & Nonverbal Communication 3
Smell, taste, and touch as nonverbal systems (continued)
Taste as a form of communication is a bit harder to describe.
We give sweets to show affection.
Also we use taste to characterize our cultures: Horseradish sauce and sauerkraut (vinegar) remind me of home; hot sauce or hot curries, Puget Sound and good coffee.
Touch is a way of communicating nonverbally. In fact, among all primates the most important social behavior is grooming.
Who can touch whom signals status or relationships. Example: Gender and power: Bush and Merkel .
Touch is also associated with the space around us (proxemics).
This study was developed by Edward T. Hall in the 1950s & 1960s. Proxemics is the study of how people perceive and use space.
Inspired by earlier studies of animal behavior and territoriality. Most famous was the set of studies that showed high levels of aggression among Norway rats when the populations were too high.
The word was coined from prox- (near) + -emics (insider view)
Culture, ethnicity and personal space
Culture has an effect on spatial perception
Americans tend to avoid teaching each other and to maximize the space between each other on elevators. But, the French, more room, more people.
Gestures & Nonverbal Communication 4
Hall suggested there were 4 kinds of proxemically relevant spaces or body distances that can be compared across cultures.
For Euroamericans: Intimate space (0-1.5 feet); personal space (1.5-4 feet); social space (4-12 feet); public space (12+).
American in Russia had to start moving in closer or most Russians were thinking she was waiting around.
Cowboy proxemics is noted to be measured in relation to the parts of a horse or other environmental cues.
Gender, status and personal space
In the United States, the amount of space one has and one's ability to enter into someone else's space are most related to one's status.
Men touching women in the US can be seen as violation of personal space (example of male colleague hugging women, but not men when he greeted them)
Entering into someone’s ‘space’
Students are not expected to enter instructor’s office without permission, but can approach the student’s chair without asking.
My dean might do the same to me (but I would signal my dissatisfaction, using gender to trump educational status).
Getting the ‘best’ office, the biggest bedroom, or which faculty have a window in their offices
Different arrangements: US grids & French circles, or German doors: closed vs open.
Having one’s own ‘space’: Man cave versus “ ma’am cave ”.
Gestures & Nonverbal Communication 5
In the 1950s, Ray Birdwhistell the study of body movements (kinesics).
His work was strongly influenced by American structural and descriptive linguistics as can be seen by the terms he coined to describe body movements.
He coined the term kineme to mean the minimal unit of visual meaning.
Allokines are variants of kinemes (think phoneme).
Kinemorphs are the meaningful units of visual expression (think morpheme).
The term kinomorph is rarely used today and kinemes have changed to cover both the phoneme and morpheme aspects of body movement.
Eckman & Friesen, 1960s created a different approach and developed 5 general types of gestures:
Emblems: gestures with direct verbal translations (waving good-bye).
Illustrators: gestures that depict or illustrate what is said verbally. They generally do not stand alone (steering wheel gesture).
Affect Displays convey emotion (smiling).
Regulators control or coordinate interactions such as whose turn it is to talk (indicate your turn to talk).
Adaptors facilitate release of body tension or similar types of gestures (wiggling).
In the last few decades, researchers have a greater understanding of how body movement, facial expressions, and gestural systems function in different contexts.
Know more about cultural differences in meaning.
How to break gestures and regulators into smaller components.
How illustrators are learned culturally.
She also cautions us of gestural guidebooks.
Gestures & Nonverbal Communication 6
Gestures across cultures
Many gestures or emblems mean one thing in one culture and something else in another.
These meanings can change over time and with contact with other cultures.
The thumb-up sign of Americans (rude in the Middle East) is being used more by Middle Easterners (not as the rude gesture, but as Americans mean it).
The “okay’ sign of Americans means money in Japan, in France it means something is worthless.
Both Margaret Thatcher (1987) & George H. W. Bush (1992) gave the wrong sign for victory in Australia. Palm out is fine, palm in is the same as F**k-you.
Soviet President Khrushchev waved his hands over his head on visit to US. Meant to be friendly, but Americans thought he said that the USSR had won the fight with America.
In 1960, at the UN. Khrushchev banged his shoe on the desk to show outrage.
Facial expressions and eye contact
The study of kinesics includes facial expressions, gaze, head movements, and posture.
Facial expressions can include: winks, blinks, eyebrow movements, smiles, frowns, pursed lips, pouts, lip compressions, and so forth.
All cultures have rules by which we are expected to show when feeling certain emotions. These are called display rules.
Masking is when you hide your emotion (poker face, for instance).
Muting is when the emotion is shown but not to the degree it is felt. In some cultures emotion is muted because of pain.
Gestures & Nonverbal Communication 7
Are there universals for emotional facial expressions?
Darwin said yes, Margaret Mead said no.
Paul Ekman is famous for studying this. Ekman went to highlands of PNG in 1965(most isolated from Westerners at the time and now he says yes).
Facial expressions and eye contact (continued)
Ekman identified 6 universal expressions: anger, fear, surprise, disgust, happy, and sad. Others suggest contempt.
May see the emotion, but not the cultural reason it was created
Culture groups may not read faces the same: Americans look at the mouth, Japanese the eyes.
The debate rages about this one!
Euroamerican speakers tend not to look at the other until ready to signal the giving up of the speaking role. Listeners are to look attentively at speaker.
African Americans are more likely to feel looking at the speaker is rude (as do South Dakotans if you do not know the person well), but speakers to look at listener.
Author talks about Orthodox Jewish men avoid contact with women (also what I learned as a child in SD).
Can be read as dominance-assertion signals if men make them to women.
But can be a sign of friendliness.
Gestures & Nonverbal Communication 8
Observing/Using Kinesics and Proxemics
Experiment: Turn off the volume of an American film and watch for kinesics and proxemics. Then do the same for a foreign film.
Some types of knowledge seem to be best learned by watching first: knitting, cooking, playing an instrument or repairing items.
Simple Gesture Systems
Where verbal communication is difficult or impossible, gestures may be used to replace it. In some cases the gestures become routine and develop into a gesture system.
Where people can see each other but are too far to speak. Examples: Sawmills, baseball games, sailboat racing.
May have started as elaborate illustrators but became simplified to become the basis for communication.
Characteristically the topics and contexts are limited.
Thought of as simple alternative systems with little or no syntax.
Complex Gesture Systems
Complex alternative systems are gestural systems that can be used almost effectively as spoken languages.
Frequently an elementary syntax based on spoken language develops to guide word/sign order.
Indigenous Australian women mourners give up speech for long periods of time and over time gestural systems become complex.
Some monastic orders are the same idea.
There is an example of a complex alternative sign language that is NOT a mimic of the syntax of spoken languages: Native American Plains sign language.
Syntax independent of any spoken language of the many culture groups that used it.
Signs used in varying order to create complexity.
Signs were in the form of emblems for specific concepts.
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