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From:  "Judy A. Kegl"
Date:  Thu Apr 7, 1904  1:27 pm
Subject:  Re: is it ASL or MIME?

Just to add my two cents....
I am by no means suggesting this applies to ASL because I lack insufficient
knowledge of ASL (and that's an understatement -- my wife, on the other
hand...but she's not here right now). Anyway, in Nicaraguan Sign Language
there are very set rules for making new words. So, while the vocabulary is
somewhat limited (the language is under 20 years old), the language dynamics
are fairly set. Accordingly, a fluent speaker will "invent" a new word
within the constraints of the language in a fairly predictable manner -- and
will therefore be understood by other fluent speakers. When we produce
texts in SW, we "invent" new words within the production rules of the
language -- and readers have no trouble with comprehension at all. Speakers
do this in conversation all the time, as well. (When I say "we invent", I
am refering to the native signers who work with us on textbook production.)

-- James Shepard-Kegl

--Judy Kegl
Linguistics Program
University of Southern Maine
96 Falmouth Street
Portland, ME 04104-9300

Phone: 207-780-4531
Fax: 207-780-5561
e-mail: ,

>From: Cecelia Smith
>To: SignWriting List
>Subject: Re: is it ASL or MIME?
>Date: Thu, May 20, 1999, 7:05 AM

> In a message dated 5/20/99 12:06:14 AM Eastern Daylight Time,
> writes:
>> I have noticed that Deaf people have no problems talking about
>> the parts of an automobile without any formal instruction in vocabulary
>> of ASL
> Actually, this just means that they are fluent in their language. I have had
> no formal instruction in the correct English vocabulary to use for parts of
> an automobile, but am able to hold a conversation about it. <smile>
> What I have noticed is that hearing people who have learned ASL have
> difficulty having such a discussion because they are not as likely to be
> fluent in the language.
> What was originally posited was that people don't really need to know if
> there is a specific sign for something, because (for example) if you know
> how a car works and you are fluent in ASL, you can get the point across.
> Well, yeah.. that is true. ALL languages work that way. If I am fluent in
> English, (which I am) but don't know the name for the thingamajig wtih 2
> wheels, one larger than the other, connected by a rubber belt, right in the
> front of the engine.... I can describe it anyway. That is what typically
> happens in situations where an interpreter is a fluent user of ASL but has a
> limited vocabulary in specific areas. Instead of using the proper term, they
> either describe what they mean or they invent a sign. Describing what they
> mean is acceptable. Inventing a sign only marginally so. Especially when
> there are resources available like NTID that can help with providing the
> correct terminology. If someone interprets a specific type of class on a
> regular basis (such as automotive technology, chemistry, biology, math,
> calculus.. whatever) that person owes it to their clients to provide accurate
> interpretation and proper language usage. I know. I have made tremendous
> use of RID resources, NAD, and NTID. And I describe a lot and I have been
> known to "invent" for the sake of a single class until I was able to get
> information from others.
> This is one area where I think SignWriting will be most benificial, and NTID
> obviously agrees.. and that is in the documentation of specific signs used in
> specialty areas. SignWriting provides a very clear, very recognizable way to
> show what a sign is, and the more specialty dictionaries that can be written
> utilizing sign writing the better.
> For me, I have to memorize the signs, until I have learned them and they
> become part of my lexicon. It is the same with English. When I encounter a
> new word, I memorize it, and use it until it is a part of my lexicon. Then
> it is simply another tool that I can use when I need it. SignWriting helps
> me learn the signs easily, so that I can memorize how they look, until I have
> used it often enough that I "have" it.
> It's 3 am. I'm starting to ramble.......
> goodnight.
> Cecelia Smith

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