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Vincent_Lloyd's avatar

What are all the methods of Sign Language?

Asked by Vincent_Lloyd (2954 points ) September 23rd, 2012

Since of my ASL 2 class I’m curious about the different methods of Signing. The only ones I know are the most well known which are Signed Exact English (SEE 2) Seeing Essential English (SEE1) Pigeon Sign English (PSE) Cued Speech, Gestures and last but not least ASL. I know there are more methods of signing since my teacher has definitely named off more and has told us some of the methods. Other than the ones listed above what are some other methods of Sign Language?

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9 Answers

WestRiverrat's avatar

I don’t think any one person can know all of the methods. I do know my sister’s husband helped develop a common sign language out of the many local sign languages in Ghana. Every village seemed to have its own language when he went over and he helped them develop a common language so the different villages could communicate.

Then there is Native American sign language, which has several dialects based on regions of the country.

linguaphile's avatar

American Sign Language, along with most of the other nationalities’ sign languages are not methods. They are authentic languages. They have their own grammar, syntax, morphology, phonology, pragmatics, cultural usage, community, and adhere to all of the features that define authentic languages. Authentic languages develop naturally through a community of users.

Gestures are not languages, or methods. They are agreed-upon physical cues that convey basic meaning but do not have depth. In other words, you can’t discuss Chomsky in gestures.

Signed Exact English (SEE), Manually Coded English, Cued Speech, are all signs that are connected to the English language—they are systems, not languages. Think, like Morse Code— it’s not a language but a way to convey English. These signs were invented—they did not develop naturally like an authentic language should. SEE, as it’s set up, is extremely cumbersome and takes a long time to convey thoughts. Cued Speech is based on phonics—it does not convey intonation, prosody or other English vocal cues. These systems are NOT equivalent to English. People will tell you that they’re optimal for teaching kids, but it’s like teaching Esperanto—there are Esperanto users, but it’s not an authentic language.

This is a huge area— actually, my area of doctoral study right now. I’ve been involved in studying ASL linguistics for the past 23 years. On the flip side, I also worked in programs that used SEE or other English-coded signs and have seen the impact it has on children- they might be able to read and write, but they lack the understanding of cultural nuances, semantic flexibility and syntactic flexibility that native ASL or spoken English users have.

Job retention and advancement depend so much on being able to read language cues (volume, inflection, pitch, duration or speech, etc) more than anything. SEE takes the natural languages away from children and giving them flat codes… they’re being set up to fail. But, that’s a soapbox for another time—

@WestRiverrat You’re right, nobody knows all the sign languages out there, but fluent ASL users are able to switch to fluent use of gestures to communicate with most other international sign languages because they’re used to using their bodies and faces to communicate. There are sign language researchers, like me, who work with a variety of sign languages and elements of signs.

Native American sign language is different- it was used to supplement and clarify, not replace, spoken languages.

Great question!

harple's avatar

There’s also Makaton – not as complete as sign language.

I have BSL level 1, but it’s sadly very rusty. (The B stands for British and apparently our signs will vary greatly from yours.)

linguaphile's avatar

@harple Yes, BSL and ASL aren’t the same at all. The main difference is that BSL uses a two-hand sequence for the letters of the alphabet, while ASL uses a one-hand sequence. Nonetheless, I enjoyed learning some BSL and can carry a basic conversation with other BSL users—we could have a conversation in person if we ever met!! :D

For the next few months, I’ll be learning Nepalese sign language. Can’t wait!!

harple's avatar

Nepalese sign language?! Wow! That’s so impressive @linguaphile!

Vincent_Lloyd's avatar

Wow just reading everything I’m just…Astonished by everything! So much information, I really do want to learn more ways to sign rather than just ASL of course ASL being my main way to communicate yes, @linguaphile you are apart of the Deaf Community yes or no? And also thank you everyone who responded to this question! :) keep them coming!

linguaphile's avatar

@Vincent_Lloyd Whoo-hoo!! I grew up in the ASL community, worked at Deaf schools for 11 years, worked as an ASL teacher, am studying ASL linguistics, will work for a Deaf charter school soon, am doing ASL language acquisition research, have taught ASL interpreters, have 2 very proud CODAs, ran three performing groups of Deaf actors, worked with Deaf advocates, am a published Deaf writer, have Deaf friends in many other countries, and much more. I’d say, very much inside the community and it’s my home—where I feel most comfortable, but I’m definitely not isolated.

In contrast, I attend a state university right now and can function just fine in the hearing world. Fun! :)

I appreciate and respect your curiosity and interest—I wish more people were like you!

Vincent_Lloyd's avatar

@linguaphile Wow! That’s so awesome I hope to someday become an interpreter! Hopefully accomplish as much as you have! And thank you so much! :) I personally prefer ASL over English to me haha, but so far my voice is needed!

linguaphile's avatar

@Vincent_Lloyd I’m thrilled you’re enjoying yourself—we need good interpreters, especially male interpreters. There’s a huge market for male interpreters! Best of luck!!

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