Saturday, January 16, 2010

minimal grammars revisited. visemese. mapping ASL onto a letter code

"The Master". He got fed up with the endless bickering on aux-lang sites.

Sapir et al. recommended an even smaller array of phonemes: /a, i, u, p, t, k, s, l, m, n, v/.
The most unmarked phonemes would be these: /a, i, u, p, t, k, m, n, s, l/.
Morneau surveyed data on 25 major languages and indicated that the following phonemes are used in at least 22 of the 25: /a, e, i, o, u, b, d, k, l, m, n, p, s, t, y/

D: I'd say Toki Pona's designer read that too.

Toki Pona has nine consonants (/p, t, k, s, m, n, l, j, w/) and five vowels (/a, e, i, o, u/).

D: OK, T.P.'s "w" seems anomalous.
VISEMESE. My first language attempt.

Visemese: 1 – ad, 2 – ba, 3 – da, 4 – cha, 5 – la , 6 – ra , 7 – tha , 8 – va, 9 – wa, 10 – a-ad.

D: so b d ch l r th v w.

D: keep in mind these are based on easily lip-readable phonemes.

// English examples
SP_VISEME_0 = 0, // silence
SP_VISEME_1, // ae, ax, ah
SP_VISEME_2, // aa
SP_VISEME_3, // ao
SP_VISEME_4, // ey, eh, uh
SP_VISEME_5, // er
SP_VISEME_6, // y, iy, ih, ix
SP_VISEME_7, // w, uw
SP_VISEME_8, // ow
SP_VISEME_9, // aw
SP_VISEME_10, // oy
SP_VISEME_11, // ay
SP_VISEME_12, // h
SP_VISEME_13, // r
SP_VISEME_14, // l
SP_VISEME_15, // s, z
SP_VISEME_16, // sh, ch, jh, zh
SP_VISEME_17, // th, dh
SP_VISEME_18, // f, v
SP_VISEME_19, // d, t, n
SP_VISEME_20, // k, g, ng
SP_VISEME_21, // p, b, m
Choosing between dkp and n ng m was tough.
I am also unsure how hard consonant clusters would be.
In theory, it *could* result in a fairly robust phonotactic system.
The above tough choice made it incompatible with any standard IAL attempt.
Losing the nasal consonants is a great blow to an aux-lang.
The FV pair is not good for a truly minimal phoneme selection, nor is the R/L distinction.
It is also completely incompatible with Decimese.

I think the best vocabulary would be generated from common word definitions.
I.e. house, hospital, fire/police stations, the company office - BUILDING.
Kinship. Social prestige. Biology and body parts. Economics. Political, legal, social...
Heavily compounding from there would allow a robust and fairly brief core set of words.
Pronouns could resemble Ceqli.
Things like move, letter, lip, and type-tell could denote means to communicate. And so on.

I only became aware from a book on Chomsky that French Canada has its own sign language. Nuts.
More official language bilingual hassle.

Quebec Sign Language, known in French as Langue des signes québécoise (LSQ), is a sign language used in Canada. Most LSQ users are located in Quebec, but a few are scattered in major cities in the rest of the country.
LSQ is closely related to both American Sign Language and French Sign Language. Due to segregation by gender in deaf education, males and females use slightly different forms of LSQ

D: !!! Even male and female versions? You gotta be kidding.
At least Quebec French sounds like bastardized language to the Parisians.
Never figured out why I learned France-style French in school.

D: Visemese - or Deafese - has the potential to address these language barriers in the deaf community. Perhaps they will recognize a 'good thing' like a universal language prior to the speaking community. For that matter, a well-developed deaf lip-readable language would also make a fine speaking one.

114 sign languages derived from the Ethnologue database (, 11/8/01, "Browse the Web Version" link); 157 more sign languages, systems and dialects, and references, added by Thomas R. Harrington, Gallaudet University Library. Total, 271 identified sign languages, dialects, and other sign systems.

D: wow. Just wow.

D: I just spent the week drilling the basic 250 ASL signs into my head. I figure if I know 80-90% of signs well I can then focus on the 10-20% less common ones. It was gruelling to learn 250 signs well in a week. My clan has poor recall.
I'm gonna slow down and aim for 100 signs/week.
In 8 months that should mean about 3000 signs.
Maybe enough for a future police officer (?) to get by.

Aside: I was reading on phonology and notation. About broad and narrow transcription systems. I mean the Roman Alphabet and the IPA one - International Phonetic Alphabet.
I pondered whether a fairly brief cypher of letters and numbers could express sign language instructions.
My head is swimming right now, but I'd like to eventually do so.
We would essentially have letters forming syllables, but the syllables could not be pronounced.
I suppose it could be mapped onto the Visemese letter set.
I tried to make a few characters but promptly became bogged down.
Even seemingly simple common signs contain a whole lot of nuance.
Still, it amuses me to attempt it.
I broke down the ASL parts into roughly the following aspects:
1) initial hand sign (sometimes arm, even head).
This can be a signed letter or number, resemble one but not be one, or be a generally natural pantomime hand position.
2) where the sign is held initially
3) the motion - circles (clockwise?), left/right or in/out et al.
4) speed of motion - slow and smooth, steady, sudden and fast? Repeated? How many times?
5) possible body/face emotional cue.
6) resulting position and such after motion.
This does not even address the fact that some common signs (mountain) can contain up to 3 signs. Home is 2 shortened ones.
I'm not sure if there is any need or use for this project. But since I have alotta time on my hands as a security guard right now, why not?


1 comment:

Brian Barker said...

I think that the choice is between English or Esperanto as the future global language rather than an untried project.

Your readers may be interested in

Dr Kvasnak teaches English at Florida Atlantic University.

A glimpse of Esperanto can be seen at