On Mon, 4 May 2009, Nuno Raposo wrote:
> First of all, just going to say I'm new :-), and apologize for replying to
> post that is a few months old.
> I'm thrilled to have happened upon this topic because I have been wanting
> know if anyone wants/has come up with a decent signed conlang. I didn't
> think there were all that many ASL fluent conlangers, but it appears that
> there is a decent sized signing crowed on the list. I hadn't even thought
> a multi-modal language, but after reading this thread, I have realized
> I happen to be in one of the few communities that actually officially
> communicates bi-modally. (explained later)
> First my opinion as to why we don't naturally communicate in sign, or with
> sign components. Speech is simply more efficient. I would venture to guess
> that during our evolution the use and availability of our arms and hands
> important. Having a way to communicate that leaves hands available would
> naturally dominate. Obviously having only one hand occupied does not stop
> Deaf person's ability to communicate, but neither does having a big hunk
> bread in a hearing person's mouth. However the production of the language
> hindered, and when given the opportunity a Deaf person will put down
> whatever they have in their hand to communicate more clearly.
> Now back to the idea of multi-modality. There are groups of people who do
> communicate this way. The one that I belong to and can speak about is the
> Sign Language Interpreting community. (another one is the CODA community,
> but that I can't speak on :-) I'd say when interpreters get together the
> majority of communicate is bilingual. (Code-mixing and Code-switching).
> what does happen now and again is a hybridization, a pidgin I guess. It's
> hard for me to think of examples even though I know they come up quite
> often, but I'll do my best. If someone more skilled in linguistics can
> of better vocabulary for what is happening please do correct me.
> The use of ASL classifiers and space with English:
> For anyone who is interested, please do look up classifiers in ASL. They
> an amazingly powerful part of ASL Linguistics. All I'll say here is that
> they are like pronouns on crack. By mixing in some classifiers you can
> in the gaps that English leaves behind. As an example you can say this in
> English. "John was here, Jane was here, and Tim was over there". Now most
> people wouldn't say this sentence without some sort of pointing, but
> pointing is the limit for the average English speaker. ASL however
> more information about placement in space than simply "here". Also ASL has
> set of classifiers to describe the posture of a person (ie. seated, or
> standing). So I could for example say the above sentence while
> simultaneously indicating position and posture of John, Jane, and Tim. So
> just one sentence I could convey something that would roughly translate to
> "John was sitting to my right, Jane was at my left, and Tim was standing
> the other end facing us." Or if you really want to have fun. "John was
> curled up in a ball really close with his back to me, Jane was behind me
> away crawling on the floor, and Tim was standing to my right, above my
> Use of ASL for disambiguation or coloring of an English word:
> This might not really fall under pidgin or hybridization, but most
> definitely happens in the interpreting community. ASL can be used to
> an English homonym. (not a good example) If someone were to say "He ran."
> can ask "He ran (sign the sign for running/jogging) or ran (sign the sing
> for running for election). What happens more often is when a word is
> Like in the conversation a:"He's a friend of mine" b:"A friend (signs
> FRIEND)? or friend (signs CASUAL-SEX)?" The efficiency here comes with
> able to simultaneously say the word "friend" while signing a description.
> You can also add the meaning of a sign to a word. If I were to say "He
> talked." But signed "FOREVER". It would be the equivalent of saying "He
> talked, and talked, and talked and talked."
> For my first post I've now said far too much. I'm sure there are more
> examples, but I can't think of any now. But I'm all for seeing a
> conlang. And also would love to find anyone who is a fluent signer who
> be interested in working on a signed conlang.
> Hope I didn't bore too much,
> Nuno

Hi Nuno!

Sorry, I just now read the daily digest containing this message.
Not boring at all!  Have you had any other responses yet?

To me, the most telling example of efficient multi-modal use
of speech with sign is the saying "he just talked" whilst signing

Surely this would be a good paradigm for a conlang?  Say the
action, sign the manner.  No need for adverbs at all!

How about the "contrapositive":  Sign the action, say the manner.
Then the signs would not need to cover adverbs (or, maybe,
adjectives.  Unless attributive adjectives were signed as verbs.)

I learned a little Auslan ("Australian Sign language") from my kids,
but have never seen ASL in action.  So I doubt I 'd be your ideal
collaborator ... ;-)  Still, the ground that a _mumolang_ could cover
would be pretty vast.  What about "steeplejacks", or high-rise
construction workers?; surely they need ways of communicating
at least essentials over great distances purely by sign - as some
"yodelling" langs did, purely by pitch contour, historically for valley-
and mountain-dwellers.  Workers in noisy environments also
usually evolve suitable gestures for essential action.  Space-
walking astronauts are not always able to communicate by twoway
radio, so encounter an environmental speech disability; yet they
may still be able to use sound conducted thru' a spacecraft hull to
at least attract attention.

Perhaps one can envisage a conculture in which perpetual
noise, distance or other shared difficulty disables full speech
communication for all, not just specifically-disabled, individuals?

Please give me a good link for classifiers in ASL.  Do these, in any
way, correspond to the "numeral classifiers" of Austronesian langs?
eg Malay:
	"sa-orang pekerja"	one (person) worker
	"sa-helai kertas"	one (sheet of) paper
	"sa-keping kertas"	one (piece/scrap of) paper
	"sa-buah limau"	one (piece of) orange (fruit)

Your examples, eg for postures (sitting vs standing) indicate they
cover other ground.  What about the various flavours of adverbs of
place, eg for "here": right here, here by my side, here in front of me,
here in this general area, ... - does ASL have suitable classifiers
for these?  Of course, your conlangs could have as many of these
as you wanted (and, preferably, made some kind of sense).


Yahya Abdal-Aziz

Enjoy learning about Uiama, a conlang (constructed language) at:
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