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SV: Re: Multimodal language (was: Wordless language (was: NonVerbal Conlang?))

From:Kalle Bergman <seppu_kong@...>
Date:Tuesday, July 4, 2006, 12:13
> Actually, you've slightly misunderstood my aims, > although understandably > inasmuch as I didn't provide any implementation > details.
Right ho! I am enlighted. Yes, maybe the extra dimensions bestowed by suprasegmental features can to some extent - although, as you yourself admit, not fully - compensate for the lack of spatial dimensions in spoken language. Of course, this creates other problems; for instance, the phonology will inevitably become very complex - perhaps not an ideal property for an auxlang. But hey, I'm not gonna be a negative nancy. Engineering problems are there to be solved, not to be stared at impotently ^_^ /Kalle B --- Patrick Littell <puchitao@...> skrev:
> On 7/3/06, Kalle Bergman <seppu_kong@...> > wrote: > > > > > > If I have understood things correctly, this could > be a > > problem, since sign languages don't rely > exclusively > > on a sequential delivery of phonemes, as spoken > > languages do. > > > Actually, you've slightly misunderstood my aims, > although understandably > inasmuch as I didn't provide any implementation > details. > > I'm not suggesting that we take, say, a spoken > phonology and come up with a > manual analogue of it. (And the grammar of Western > European-style spoken > language and come up with a manual version of that, > too.) Like below, you > noted that things like spelling out a spoken > phonology and doing English in > signs are too slow and cumbersome, and would put > deaf users at a > disadvantage. This is entirely true, but I wasn't > suggesting anything so > naive. > > > > Whereas spoken language is > > one-dimensional (phonemes are spoken one at a time > in > > a long "row"), sign language uses all three > spatial > > dimensions in addition to the time dimension used > by > > spoken language. > > > Treating spoken language as one dimensional isn't > wholly adequate, > actually. We started out working with words as > strings of phonemes, but the > last 50 years have broadened our understanding of > their nonlinear and > suprasegmental properties. (Note: this doesn't mean > that some language X > can't be described in a wholly linear phonology, but > rather that spoken > languages have more options than just put this after > this after this. > English doesn't make much use of them, but they're > there.) > > So even though sign phonology is indeed > multidimensional, so is oral > phonology. (This is not to say that the dimensions > of sound space could > make as many precise distinctions as body space > does, just that a mapping > between them need not completely impoverish sign's > wealth of dimensional > distinctions.) > > So let's take a practical example, dealing with one > of the big stumbling > points this project might come across: simultaneity. > Spoken language does, > as you say, mostly work by putting one thing after > each other. But take a > sign for "close it (the window) repeatedly". Quite > a few things might be > going on at once: the motion for closing, the > classifier appropriate for > windows, the movement to indicate habitual aspect. > > This superimposition is going to be one of the > trickiest things to get right > for a project like this. I don't suggest we leave > things like this out > entirely; the result would be, as you say, a very > *unnatural* sign > language. But on the other hand, working out a > spoken language in which > these simultaneously-occuring sounds are represented > suprasegmentally will > not lead us to an unnatural spoken language. It > will lead us to a language > very unlike English, yes, and possibly to a > typologically improbable > language, but not to something unspeakable. > > (As a side note, we often forget the wealth of > features that might resonably > be suprasegmental in a spoken language. The first > thing that comes to mind > for this project is tone, of course, but vowel > quality features belong to > more than one segment in languages with vowel > harmony, consonant POA > features in languages with consonant harmony, other > features like voice or > laryngealization... even *nasality* can be > suprasegmental... for > example, take a look at languages in the Yanomami or > Macro-Je families.) > > ------------------------------- > > Anyway, let's play around with this. I'll take > David's analogy (his section > on the similarities and differences between spoken > and signed phonology is > very good if you haven't yet read it) and go from > there. Here's my > specification of the spoken language: > > Verbs work by the sort of root-and-pattern > morphology we find in Semitic > languages, in which the root meaning of the verb is > indicated by consonants > and some of the vowels, and other vowels are left > unspecified, to be filled > in as part of aspectual inflection. The root for > "close" is t*t*, where * > is a vowel slot. The inflection for completive > aspect involves filling it > in with [a]s, whereas habitual aspect involves [ai]s > instead, and > progressive is [u], etc. > > Furthermore, the language exhibits > classification-by-verbs, aka > classificatory incorporation, aka type IV noun > incorporation, although > instead of doing this by affixation or compounding > this is realized > suprasegmentally by tone patterns. Say, a high-high > pattern for flat > things, a high-rising pattern for cylindrical > things, a low-low pattern for > roundish things, etc. > > In this case, "close it (the window) repeatedly" > comes out as "taitai" with > two high tones. (Note: although this language is > absolutely nothing like > English, this sort of game is not "unnatural" for > speech. All of these are > perfectly reasonable things for a spoken language to > do.) > > Now, take something like David's mappings of > consonants to discrete signs, > vowels to movements, and handshape to tone. If the > phoneme realized orally > as [tj] is realized manually as lateral hand > contact, and [ai] as a vertical > circular movement, and the high-high tone > corresponds to a flat handshape... > then we get a case where a natural sign and a > natural spoken word > correspond. The sign in which one puts two flat > hands in contact while > moving in a vertical circle is just spoken as > [tjaitjai] with HH tones. > > And negation might be realized manually as a > head-shake, but orally as a > [+NASAL] suprasegment over the entire word, giving > us [njainjai]. (Sign > language still wins against spoken when it comes to > the number of things > that can be happening at once, but spoken language > does have usually-unused > resources that at least help it catch up.) > > -------------------------------- > > For instance; signers often place reocurring > > concepts in their dialogue at a certain position > in > > the space around them, and when referring to that > > concept, they indicate the position in question > with > > their hands (this is a kind of pronouns). > > > This is so, and I'm not 100% sure we could find a > way to implement this with > sounds. It may just be a thing that gets left out > in the end, just like > subject agreement might be left out in order to > allow classifiers instead. > > It wouldn't necessarily lead to an *unnatural* > signed language, though, just > as leaving out subject agreement or plural > inflection doesn't lead to an > impoverished spoken language. (On the other hand, I > think that leaving out > classification and aspect-as-movement might well > lead to a unnatural sign > language, so I think they should be on the short > list of things-to-keep.) > > > > I have the feeling that this property of sign > language > > would make it problematic to create a language > whose > > underlying representation can be realized as > either > > speech or signs - at least, and this is, granted, > a > > big "at least", if one wishes the language to > behave > > as a natural sign language. > > > > Of course, one can always create a inventory of > signs > > which corresponds to an inventory of spoken > phonemes, > > and which are suppposed to be used in a strict > > sequential manner like the phonemes of spoken > > language. This would then be reminiscent of > "signed > > english" - that is, the convention of assigning a > hand > > gesture to each letter in the english alphabet, > used > > to spell out english words in sign language. It is > > illustrative, however, that signed english isn't > used > > as a native language by any community of deaf > people. > > The problem with signed english and similar > > conventions is that they're simply too slow; one > can > > never achieve the same speed when signing letters > as > > when speaking, which everyone can easily convince > > themselves of by looking up signed english on the > web > > and attempting to sign a few easy words as quick > as > > they can - and then comparing with the speed of > saying > > the words in question. Natural sign languages, on > the > > other hand, which use four dimensions instead of > just > > one, can easily compress their information rate to > a > > level equalling spoken language. > > > > If one aims to construct an auxlang which can be > used > > equally well by hearing and deaf, then this is the > > wrong way to go; the hearing people would get an > > obvious advantage, because the language would not > > behave as a natural sign language. > > > Entirely true. As I mentioned above, though, a sign > language rigidly > constrained to behave like a spoken language wasn't > what I was going for. > The game isn't to try to force one mode of > communication into the mold of > another, but to try to find those similarities that > allow for natural > communication within both. Not easy, definitely, > but I do believe possible. > > -- Pat >