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From:  Fernando Capovilla
Date:  Tue Dec 14, 1999  7:04 pm
Subject:  writing legs & feet

Hi Cecelia and Valerie,

> It is true that over time, signs in ASL have migrated towards the common sign
> space. This tendency is natural to all languages.

That is what I meant by "evolution". If this is one of the many possible
criteria of evolution, and if this criterion may be
heuristically applied to other languages, then perhaps it might be possible to
"estimate" how old or formalized a language may be.
That is, it could be dating technique, something like a type of Carbon 14.
Perhaps it is a silly idea, perhaps not.Hi Charles and
James. I enjoyed the signs DOG and BILL CLINTON.
In BrSL we have other signs such as ABORTION, MENINGITIS, BACKS, HIPS, TIGHS,
KNEES, LUNGS, BACKBONE, and SQUIRREL, to name a few,
in which the hands clearly extrapolate the signing space.Valerie: our
dictionary depits the signs mentioned above (from ABORTION
to SQUIRREL), among others. I may be wrong, of course, but my hunch is that as
BrSL evolves, we will be able to see those signs
migrating more and more to the signing space. That is another purpose of
registering a lexicon at a given time and space: It will
function as a time capsule, so as to allow watching what happens as time
passes. In any event, that hypothesis may only be fully
tested by our grandchildren. (That is why writing a dictionary is a generous
deed.) :-)

> Grin. That and a few OTHER chapters, Fernando! ;-)
> Last year about this time, Fernando asked for a special chapter on
> Sequential Finger Movement. Woops...that hasn't been posted yet!

> Now I am writing an Introduction on SignWriting for the new Brazilian Sign

> Language Dictionary, which will be published in the new year....
> Gosh. I guess I should get that done first.......or do you want "tapping
> the toes on the ground" as a part of the Introduction in the dictionary?
> If so, are there signs like that in the Brazilian Sign Language Dictionary?
> I was writing my Intro around entries in the dictionary....

No problem. We would just need a straight introduction as soon as possible, and
as systematic and thorough as possible, full of
illustrations. :-)

> I would never have thought of such an idea, that one language is more
> sophisticated than another....To me all languages are valid...they are just
> different, that's all.

Dear Val, would you say a language "evolves" or just that it "randomly changes
over time"? I would say that, despite all random
changes over time (that are actually noise instead of signal), there may be
some lines of evolution that may be identified (for
instance like that from pictograms to Rebus to syllabaries to Greek-Roman
alphabet). If we agree on that, would you say that each
language is a phenomenon completely particular or that languages may share some
features and dimensions? (for instance the
strategy they use to represent the sounds of language). In that case, wouldn't
you agree it might be profitable to compare the way
they change over time along those dimensions? I am not trying to adopt
Procustus's maneuver and say that we should adopt the same
criteria to all languages. I am just saying that such an heuristic exercise may
yield fruitful hypotheses and refreshing
discoveries, at least more than those accruing from assuming that each language
is a completely separate phenomenon in itself.

  Replies Author Date
2486 Deaf Brazilian Dictionary Team Photo Valerie Sutton Tue  12/14/1999
2487 Re: writing legs & feet Valerie Sutton Tue  12/14/1999

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