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Re: How to spell a gesture

From:Gary Shannon <fiziwig@...>
Date:Saturday, February 19, 2005, 7:01
Muke wrote:


> Actually they do try to duplicate the > gesture. The problem is that the > gestures in sign language are a lot > more complicated than "palm taps palm, > then palm taps chest".
What's worse is that if this were a well developed only language in a non-vocal alien culture there would be even more subtle nuances to each movement. Touching the end of the nose might mean something quite different if the contact point were slightly left of center, for example. This would require that the system be even more complex. For a simple "toy" conlang, however, all this could be simplified a great deal. <snip> David wrote:
> It seems to be a theme this year that someone > posts about something just before I've gotten > ready to post about it. Oh well. > > As Sai said, over the past month I have been > developing what I'm calling Sign Language IPA > (SLIPA). I based it on my knowledge of ASL, > and other sign languages, but also largely upon > linguistic studies of the phonology of ASL, > in particular by David Perlmutter here at UCSD. > The site is here: > >
I visited your site earlier to day when Sai posted the link. It looks a great deal more sophisticated than what I had in mind for my "toy" conlang. But it's also full of great ideas. It's intersting to see how others have approached the problem as well. I have no real expertise in linguistics and my only knowledge of ASL comes from two semesters I took while working as a vocational trainer with deaf teens about 10 years ago. I haven't used it at all in at least 8 years. <snip> Gary wrote: << Here's and example of how hands positions and motions might be classsified prior to encoding them symbolically: I. Symbols representing hand shape >>
> Snip the rest. I think you'll find that if you > go this root, you'll end up with signs that are > just impossibly long and hard to read. > What you'll end up with, in fact, is an ASCII > version of HamNoSys.
<snip> Since I'm not planing to use this system to transcribe any existing sign system, what I sort of had in mind was very short gestures and an extensive set of "default rules" such that if, for example, the symbol for "palm-to-palm" is written it is assumed that the fingers point up with the heal of the hand toward the listener unless it is otherwise stated. In this way for most signs very few specifics need to be explicitly stated. <snip> Muke still: << Actually they do try to duplicate the gesture. The problem is that the gestures in sign language are a lot more complicated than "palm taps palm, then palm taps chest". >>
> Very true. There's a lot of detail, some of which > is important, some of which isn't.
What's good about designing a gestural conlang from scratch is that I can decide which details are important and leave off any transcription for details that don't matter. For example, rather than identifying the 29 locations on the face in your system I might be content with "forehead, nose, mouth, cheek, chin". Since I don't have to transcribe existing systems I can afford to simplify to a greater extent.
> It's kind of > like saying that five different languages have a > word that can be narrowly transcribed as [']. > I guarantee that this word will sound different > in all five languages. If a sign language > transcription system is going to work, there has > to be some standards that can be further modified. > So, for example, in a *good* grammar, a field worker > will say, for example, "Language X has the vowels > [a], [i] and [u], *but* [a] is slightly more central > in unstressed contexts; [i] is closer to English
> but not quite so far forward; [u] tends to be the > longest of the vowels, and can often be as low as > [o]", etc.
<snip> Imagine that! I foolishly thought that a thread about a silent, written-only language would never make it possible to say anything about pronunciation. ;-)
> However, the task seems more formidable since people > are, in general, more unfamiliar with sign
> if at all. > > Anyway, this has been a project which has taken much > of my time for the past month or so (to the
> of my schoolwork). Hopefully it can be helpful. > >-David
Thank you. I'm finding it very interesting. Although it is far more complex than anything I would attempt, it is full of neat ideas that I can learn something from. --gary