Date: Wed May 19, 1999 8:48
SignWriting List Forum
Subject: Re: Answers for Valarie and Wayne
On Mon, 17 May 1999, Ronald H Dettloff wrote:
> Please understand that ASL can be adapted to fit any situation. I have
> been an an interpreter for automotive studies and have found that the
> most important factor other than knowing ASL is knowing the automobile
> yourself. With these two skills you can interpret anything about any
> automobile and there is no need to study special automobile signs.
I disagree, strongly.
If you do this you are doing one of two things;
1) using mime (which is not language at all. (altho a mime-action can
word if it is used linguistically, as a symbol for
2) making up your own words, and thus creating a duolect; a language
variety used by only two people.
I've used interpreters in my classes. They were constantly
faced with technical terminology that they didn't know (terps in physics
class needn't be physicists!!) Since fingerspelling the words is both HARD
and slow, we did what you mentioned above, but only as a temporary
solution. We asked our friends, none of whom knew signs for this stuff
either. then we reached out to the larger community by looking for books
and dictionaries. (for which a decent writing system is essential.!!)
This is how languages grow. Part of the definition of a natural language
is that it is the product of a community of users. We had
created "Joe Martin Sign Language" distinct from ASL, a whole
slew of dialects, different for each terp. Very unsatisfactory.
The same process works
with all languages; in talking with my japanese friends I can
"mime" too, by saying "the thing with three coils that adjusts how much
current goes from the alternator and how much to the battery and cuts off
the circuit when the battery is overcharged," or I can make up the name
bloofp for it.
It is much better to learn that the Japanese community
calls it "seigyoku," and join them. The point of learning a language is
to join that community. Learning their vocabulary is at least half the