Sunday, November 21, 2010

the many faces of sign language. tower of babel.

babble Look up babble at
early 13c., babeln "to prattle," akin to other Western European words for stammering and prattling (cf. Swedish babbla, O.Fr. babillier) attested from the same era, some of which probably were borrowed from others, but etymologists cannot now determine which were original. Probably imitative of baby-talk, in any case (cf. L. babulus "babbler," Gk. barbaros "non-Greek-speaking"). "No direct connexion with Babel can be traced; though association with that may have affected the senses" [OED]. Meaning "to repeat oneself incoherently, speak foolishly" is attested from early 15c. Related: Babbled; babbling.

D - by all rights, sign language should be somewhat transparent and universal. When spoken in context and a certain setting, Rand's referent-objects as well as physical actions should be iconic - mimcry, like a game of Charades.

(Aside - having learned some ASL, I cannot believe just how terrible most people are at making clear iconic signs.)

D - am reading "The Joy of Signing" to round out some gaps in my training. Chopping up a sign language dictionary for cue cards is not an ideal way to learn.
I should have just looked at the basics much more.

The foreword mentions that there are Canadian sign differences compared to ASL.
The Europeans only use one hand. ASL tends to wander between 1 and 2 hands for signs.
Some signs are already out of date - for example, showing toast over an open flame.
Others are considered politically incorrect - the deaf&dumb sign, for example.

Gestuno is a half-hearted attempt at a universal sign language. In practice, it only shares certain basic iconic signs, and otherwise each signer uses their own proprietary national signs.
It can be seen as a kind of pidgin sign language, which is not as conventionalised or complex as natural sign languages and has a limited lexicon.

D: ASL often generates novel concepts, or limited subset ideas, from initializing a 'natural sign' with a letter. The Roman Alphabet and the spoken national language immediately limites how universal a sign can be.
For example, the derivations of group.

I hope my deafese may yet serve as a more ideal stand-in for a universal sign language.

Maybe a sign language based conceptually on AUI would be more ideal.
I still think AUI is fascinating.
Each sound is linked to a concept.

aUI has 42 phonemes (including nasalized variations on the vowels for numbers), each with an associated meaning:

* a (pronounced like a in about): 'space'
* e (pronounced like e in bend): 'movement'
* i (pronounced like i in win): 'light'
* u (pronounced like u in bush): 'human'
* o (pronounced like o in port): 'life'

So AUI means "space human light" - space language.

My attempt to analyze the 1000 most common English words for recurring concepts is of use here. Stuff like money, system, hierarchy. Gender/kinship.

accents and stigma. stutter in bilingual kids.

The study found that Israeli Arabs' positive associations with their own people are weaker when they are tested in Hebrew than when they are tested in Arabic.

The study used a computer test known as the Implicit Association Test, which is often used to study bias. Words flash on the computer screen, and subjects have to categorize them by pressing two keys on the keyboard as quickly as possible. It's a nearly automatic task, with no time to think about the answers. The trick is, the subjects are classifying two different kinds of words: words describing positive and negative traits and, in this case, names

The Arab Israeli volunteers found it easier to associate Arab names with "good" trait words and Jewish names with "bad" trait words than Arab names with "bad" trait words and Jewish names with "good" trait words. But this effect was much stronger when the test was given in Arabic; in the Hebrew session, they showed less of a positive bias toward Arab names over Jewish names.

D - implications for bilingualism. And regional accents. And foreign accents.


Children who are bilingual before the age of 5 are significantly more likely to stutter and to find it harder to lose their impediment, than children who speak only one language before this age, suggests new research.

There was no difference in school performance between children who stuttered, but the authors suggest that children whose native language is not English may benefit from deferring the time when they learn it. "...this reduces the chance of starting to stutter and aids the chances of recovery later in childhood," they say.

D - here in Canuck-land, this implies that learning our second official language in primary school may be ideal.
Though I never figured out why we learn Parisian French.
That is like teacher Franophones British English.
It makes no sense.

I wonder if the exception to this would be sign language.
Since it uses manual parallels to verbal signs, maybe it would not cause stuttering.
I am curious if it would result in manual accompaniment to speaking?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

on latex notation, text editors and keyboard design

D: I was impressed by how Latex allows IPA characters.
Those are some sensible keyboard shortcuts for IPA.

D: Look at a typical text editor interface.
The options available are not reflected on a standard qwerty keyboard.
The keyboard has many obscure and largely unused symbols hogging space.

(I'll look at keybaord layouts another day.)

Anyway, my Google blog has bold - italic.
My Google e-mail has bold-italic-underline- size -font- colour - highlight colour.
Hmm, it seems to get confused if I change text size after picking colours.
Which is a neat artistic result.

My point? We should have the reverse of mouse gestures.
Do with a button on the keyboard what we now need a mouse to do.
A keyboard should have those text options readily available.
It would be brilliant for math and science notation.
It would be compatible with a standard online text editor, as well as word processors.
A similar process with diacrtics would help with a generic universal Romance-language modified ROman alphabet system.

French accents:
Hmm turns out French has 5 accents.
I never did figure out what they meant.
That might explain why I nearly failed French after taking it 8 years.
I still cannot speak it.

I did memorize alt-0233 for the word resumé. I was tired of typing the verb ree-zoom.

Anyway, capital letters leave space for accents. Nor do small letters that have some upright element.
All in all, pretty poor design.

A qwerty keyboard cannot easily be reduced to half the characters.
Sure, voiced/voiceless pairs such as BP are natural candidates.
But this relationship is pretty opaque with Roman letters to most laypeople.