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Some signs are already out of date - for example, showing toast over an open flame.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.

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