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From:  "Angus B. Grieve-Smith"
Date:  Sun Mar 17, 2002  2:17 pm
Subject:  Re: Names for sign languages

On Sat, 16 Mar 2002, Dan Parvaz wrote:

> Of course, don't Deaf people pretty much everywhere just call their
> language SIGN (however that is signed in their SL)? The problem is that
> the local name, which serves the function of distinguishing it from the
> local spoken language(s), doesn't help us when we are assuming the set
> of all sign languages as a starting point. Nomenclature is always a
> sticky thing...

Don't you mean that the name for the language in that language is
usually translated in English as "sign"? Often the names are different,
but the translation is the same. It's a problem of translation.

And from what I understand, it was similar before the 19th century
Romantic movement, when the system of ethnicity-naming was (somewhat)
standardized. Before that system, a lot of groups just called themselves,
"the people," and their name for their language was derived from a word
that meant "talk." Of course, they had names for _other_ ethnicities, but
they weren't always very flattering. And then the imperial powers came in
and gave them their own names.

For example, in New Mexico there is an indigenous group that calls
themselves the Dine or Tinde. They are usually called Apache, which comes
(via Spanish) from the name the Zuni gave them, which means "the Enemy."
The Zuni, another indigenous group, claim to be descended from a group
that built several housing complexes between 800-1200 AD, which are now
abandoned and called Chaco Canyon, Bandelier National Monument and Mesa
Verde National Park. That ancient group is usually called the Anasazi,
which comes from the name the Apaches gave them, which means "the Ancient

-Angus B. Grieve-Smith
Linguistics Department
University of New Mexico

  Replies Author Date
6519 Re: Names for sign languages Dan Parvaz Sun  3/17/2002

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