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On Tue, 2009-07-14 at 12:49 -0400, Alex Fink wrote:

> Hm.  Okay, so there can easily be more than fourish locations in play over a
> discourse, I believe that.  Certainly if (as Lee points out) one doesn't
> draw the distinction between places standing in for people (etc.), i.e. more
> "pronominal" ones, and settings of other signs in space, and there probably
> is no such distinction.  
> 

No real distinction that I can think of. Only restrictions I can think
of are the common sense issues. ie. a Person will be a point in space,
or traveling through space, and a landscape will be a plane in space.
But then again you can "zoom in" on a person and use their body as a
landscape (autopsy?)

> How many locations do you reckon can actually remain active at once, then,
> as a matter of the listener's memory?  If I put the hills somewhere, and
> then I do a bunch of other things and establish other indexes for a while,
> and then come back and sign something at the hills, how much intervening
> stuff (roughly) is necessary for this to fail to be conveyed?

I don't think the short term memory problem is really at play here. The
use of space in ASL is less a game of memorization and more about
painting a picture.

Taking the original text I linked to, the Vlog. The listener is not
expected to memorize where everything is. Take the "workshop" location.
It's reference throughout the text, and several times the signer re
indexes by signing "workshop" or "audience" or something to place it in
space again. It isn't as if the signer would spend 5 mins setting 20
locations up and then never restating again. I think this could be
similar to the use of "he" in English, sooner or later you have far too
many "he's", and you have to restate which "he" you are talking about
and carry on with that "he" until it becomes unclear. As topics change,
and scenes change, space can be changed out, or modified, but several
minutes later you can always come back to the first reference and bring
it in the fore ground.

> Do you think there's a bound on the number of sensibly contrastible index
> locations, as a matter of distinguishability of position?  How close can two
> indices be without confusion?
> 
> Alex

Probably not an easily definable bound. Not sure how much work has been
done on this. Most points in space are relative to already established
ones. And these can be quite close. And eye gaze can further refine
placement and distance from signer. I think the best way to describe it
is sitting in the middle of a sandbox (a 3d one). But you have the
ability to zoom in on scenes in the sandbox and zoom out, and change
your position in the sandbox (or have the sandbox move around you).

Side story:
In some of the interpreting workshops I've gone to have played a space
game to emphasis the need to have a scene in your head and the ability
to move around in it. The presenter would show a picture of some scene
(a library for example). Then the presenter would place you in the
picture. This could be as easy as human sized sitting in a chair, or
more complicated like 1 inch tall sitting on a book in the shelf. And we
were then tasked with describing the scene in ASL positioning everything
correctly from our perspective, using appropriate classifiers for the
comparable size we were at the time.