Types of Sign Language: A “Did You Know” service announcement

Did you know…

That there are many types of sign language. Just las vocal language comes in many different langauges and dialects, sign language too comes in different langauges, dialects, and even versions of dialects.

Blueprint Sign Language

Album cover for Blueprint's album Sign Language. Image and a review of the album via Culture Bully.

First, the basics. Sign language uses visually transmitted sign patterns to convey meaning by simultaneously combining shape, orientation and movement of the hands, arms or body, and facial expressions. This is important as a sign not only conveys a word but also conveys a tone, both contextually and acoustically. For example, if you were to say a word emphatically, there are many things going on here the audibly convey a particular message. Your emphasis on the word, whether it be delivered by using a higher or lower pitch, the volume, and even tones such as sarcasm or gaiety are all being conveyed simultaneously by the interpreter with use of the sign, body movement, and facial expression. That’s a lot of visual information being received that we often as hearing individuals take for granted that our brain simply process.

In linguistic terms, sign languages are as complex and anthropologically diverse as oral, or acoustic, language. Professional linguists have studied many sign languages and found them to have every linguistic component required to be classed as a langauge. One of the major components to Deaf being a deaf culture is the complexity of its language.

Along with classified sign languages, sign systems are also sometimes developed within a single family. These terms are usually used in conversation only with other family members and friends who are familiar with the signs. They are informal systems of signing and are usually referred to as home sign or kitchen sign. While these informal systems are a bit more complex with families who rely on this system to communicate personally with one another, we have all created mini-versions of homesign within our own families. For example, that singular shaped hand gesture your baby does that only you and your family knows what the baby means (such as asking for a particular cup, or expressing wanting their bottle, or even a gesture they make when identifying a familiar sound)…yep…that’s home sign. This example is not to belittle sign systems, rather, it is to demonstrate just how intrinsic the use of gestures and hand movements are even to the hearing world.

While there are specific, classified types of Sign Language that make up the general base to signing systems, dialects are also created, oftentimes creating a version of the base sign system that is unique and prevailing amongst the deaf community of a local community. Famous examples of this include Martha’s Vineyard Sign Language in the USA, Kata Kolok in a village in Bali, Adamorobe Sign Language in Ghana and Yucatec Maya sign language in Mexico.

In this post, only the signs most prevalently to be encountered in the our campus will be discussed, but you can visit this article at disabled-world.com for a complete list types of Sign Language.

Types of Sign Language:

American Sign Language Fingerspelled Alphabet

American Sign Language (ASL) Fingerspelled Alphabet. Image via Google search.

American Sign Language (ASL). ASL is a complete, complex language that employs signs made with the hands and other movements, including facial expressions and postures of the body. It is the first language of many deaf in North America, and is considered the dominant sign language of the Deaf community in the United States, in the English-speaking parts of Canada, and in parts of Mexico. ASL is said to be the fourth most commonly used language in the U.S.

British Sign Language

British Sign Language (BSL) Fingerspelled Alphabet. Image via Google search.

British Sign Language (BSL). Though the United Kingdon and the United States both share English as a spoken and written language, British Sign and American Sign languages are quite different from one another and are not mutually intelligible. British Sign Language (BSL) makes use of space and involves movements of the hands, body, face, and head.

Signed English (SE). This system is preferred among primary and higher education institutions as it has one sign to represent each word in the English language. It is intended to be used to help with reading and writing, and has important signs to teach grammar.

Sign Supported English (SSE). This is the preferred method of hearing people to communicate with the deaf. SSE uses the same sign as British Sign Language (BSL), but unlike Signed English (SE), you do not have to sign every word. SSE also doesn’t have its own grammar system like BSL, enabling hearing people to use the sign system without having to learn a whole new grammatical structure. SSE can be picked up fairly quickly which expedites communication.

International Sign (IS). You may not come in contact with this system much here on our campus — yet, that is; we are growing — but IS is an international auxillary language used at international meetings, such as the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) Congress and events such as the Deaflympics.

Padget Gorman Signed Speech. This signing system is used with speech to help those with langauge difficulties. There are 37 basic signs which when combined can make over 4,000 more complex ones.

Pidgin Signed English (PSE). Another characterstic of language, like vocal language, sign language has a very crude signing system, in which elements of BSL and spoken English are combined to allow communication between hearing people and deaf people who only know the strict confines of sign language. This system is not recommended (the persnickety of proper grammar should cover both ears and eyes for this system).

And finally…

Finger Spelling. This signing system is generally used alongside sign language. It is used to spell out names, places, and anything else where there is not usually a sign for. Many times, new words take longer to be adapted into a singular sign, therefore they must be spelled out.

1 comment so far

  1. Natasha Flouee on

    It is certainly interesting for me to read the article. Thanx for it. I like such themes and everything that is connected to them. I would like to read a bit more soon. By the way, pretty good design you have here, but don’t you think it should be changed once in a few months?

    Natasha Flouee

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