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From:  Therese Shellabarger
Date:  Wed Dec 15, 1999  3:47 am
Subject:  Re: SW-L Digest - 13 Dec 1999 to 14 Dec 1999

On Mon, 13 Dec 1999 19:53:09, you wrote:
>From: Fernando Capovilla
>Subject: Writing Legs & Feet
>I was fascinated by Cecelia's description of that very curious sign. In
Brazilian Sign Language there are lots of signs that
>are emitted outside the conventional signing space (i.e., that involve the
entire physical space around one's body, including
>feet, legs and back of trunck and head). We are in great need of learning
how to use SW (or DW) to write down signs that
>involve feet, legs, hips, backs, etc. Thus, Valerie's idea of specifying
the details of that topic is very important to us.
>[Valerie: could you please write a special session of your chapter on that
topic? Thank you so much. :-) ]

I was fascinated by the story too, because I could see where there might be
two kinds of signing, depending on whether it is "audience" signing vs.
"personal" signing. I can even imagine a sign developing two directions as
it became more sophisticated. Just as we speak differently in a speech than
we do with friends, there must be more to signing to an audience than
merely acting out larger gestures. One can foresee developing some signs
that take advantage of a larger expanse of the human body as well. Of
course, as long as Deaf people are stuck behind podiums, that may not work
too well... (-:

>The reason for my interest is this: According to the literature, as sign
languages evolve there is a tendency of signs to
>concentrate on the signing space (i.e., they migrate from the physical to
the signing space). Thus, I used to think that the
>apparent relatively high frequency of signs made in the physical space
(rather than in the signing space) that we find in
>Brazilian Sign Language (in comparison to ASL) would indicate that BrSL
would be less sophisticated than ASL. I would like to
>how how true that assumption is. In order to know that, I'd have to do
some comparison between the two lexicons (as I am
>already doing with respect to hand initialization, which seems to be less
frequent in BrSL than it is in ASL). I was already
>intending to do some actuarial job, counting the frequency of signs that
extrapolate the signing space in both ASL and BrSL.
>Now I'm even more interested on doing that. In order to increase the
validity of the comparisons, it is necessary to start
>with dictionaries that are regarded representative of their languages. I
have been using Elaine Costello's (1994) Random House
>American Sign Language Dictionary (1067 pages). I am pretty happy with it
(but of course I'm not an ASL signer). Would anyone
>suggest another dictionary?

I think the one by Martin Sternberg (hardbound version) might be useful as
Unfortunately, I only have the paperbound "abridged" edition, and I don't
know if it has the same number of signs as the hardbound version. The
friend who gave it to me said she thought it only was missing some
linguistic information or something like that, and that it had all the
signs in it. I think it's better than any other I've seen, but I haven't
seen the '94 dictionary by Costello. FWIW, this has 438 pages, and it looks
like each page has an average of 6 signs per page. It's a regular
full-sized book with a stiff paper cover.

American Sign Language Dictionary, Abridged Edition of American Sign
Language: A Comprehensive Dictionary, published in hardcover by Harper &
Row, copyright 1981, 1987 by Martin L. A. Sternberg. ISBN 0-06-091383-5 (pbk.)

>Does Cecilia, or Valerie, or any coleague from our list have any idea of
whether thal sign described by Cecelia may be found
>in any ASL dictionary (such as Costello's)?

It's not. I've never seen any signs other than the "d-o-g" sign mentioned
elsewhere which could be said to exist on the body outside of the normal
This sounds like something a sophisticated signer would develop, someone
native to the language, born to a Deaf family, and knowing all the registers.

Therese Shellabarger - Shalom chaverot!

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