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Sign Language, Written Language and the Deaf

Name : Martos Alfitri
Sign Language, Written Language and the Deaf
4.1 Soundless Language
How can a soundless language like sign language be acquired? This is one of issues which are of great practical importance for deaf people in terms of communication and education.
4.2 Language without Speech
People usually use language for communication. But that’s not everybody can speech like a deaf and dumb person. They use sign language for communication. Actually not everybody understands sign language. Such in the corner of our TV screen, we can see a person translating speech into sign for the deaf and dumb viewers. And the normal viewers don’t understand those signs. Language is for convey information. Even though only a partly person use sign language but it’s very useful for the deaf and the dumb persons. According to the language criterion not only can a fluent signer of a complete sign language whatever that speaker can say, but signer communicate at the same speed as a speaker does. The speed at which signers produce sentences in a sign conversation tends to be the same at which speakers produce sentences in a speech conversation. According to research in several country that a person who could produce and understand communication even though they are through sign rather speech, surely can reasonably said to have language. So, sign language is involved to language.
4.3 Gestures and Signs
4.3.1 Gestures without Speech
People use a variety of body movements to convey messages. Most of these movements, called gestures mainly involve the face and hands although the posture of the body is important as well we use gestures to communicate a variety of types of messages. For example:
- greetings (hello, good by – by moving the hands and arms)
- insults (the sticking out of the tongue by children, the raising of the middle finger by adults)
- answering (yes, no, I don’t know – by moving the head) etc.
Some gestures are almost universal, such as the moving of the hand or arm towards the body to indicate “come”, and we can see to another nation, like: America, Srilanka, Japanese, French, etc.
Facial movements, in particular, are used everywhere to express a wide range of emotions and feelings. We don’t need actually to litter the words ‘I am……… (Happy, surprised, disgusted, disappointed, excited, angry, etc)
In examining gestures, it becomes obvious that some gestures are more related to or suggest the ideas that they are intended to represent than are others. The hand and arm gesture for “come”, pointing to your own body for “self” or a smile gesture for “Friendliness”. These kinds of gestures having a close relationship between gesture and meaning are called “iconic” gesture, such as shaking of hands to signify agreement in the closing of a business deal.
Beside general gestures used in a culture, there are also restricted gestures which are known and used by small groups. For example:
- Stock trading: As have all seen pictures of stocks being bought and sold on the floor of an exchange.
- Betting: At a race track in Britain, we might see a man putting one right finger in his left ear.
- Music: Symphony conduction often pulls the palm back towards the body to request less volume from orchestra.
- Sports: Referees and judges use elaborate hand and arm gesture to indicate the state of play and the assignment of points and penalties.
- Television: If we were an announcer presenting the news, the person in charge drew his or her index finger across the throat.
4.3.2. Gestures with Speech
Despite the great number of gestures which are available for use. It’s clear that most of the gesturing that people engage in when they communicate is coordinated with speech. A good example of the catter is “beat” where one’s hand or finger is kept in motion and is synchronized with what a person is saying.
Beats are constant in form and don’t change with the content of the sentences. In making beats, people will move their hands up and down or back and forth. The purpose of beats, according to Mc. Neill in lies insightful analysis of gesture is basically to emphasize the discourse function to concurrent speech.
The use of beat however is more pronounced in some cultures than in others making note of what people do when they talk. Such as their production of icon beat gestures that they make can be a very interesting past time.
4.4 Sign Languages
4.4.1 Types of Sign Languages
Principally, there are two types of sign language and these differ as to whether or not the signs represent ordinary (speech-based) languages. Thus, there are sign languages which represent the words (through signs) and their order as they appear in ordinary languages.
4.4.2 Sign Languages Representing Spelling or Speech
A sign language (also signed language) is a language which, instead of acoustically conveyed sound patterns, uses visually transmitted sign patterns (manual communication, body language and lip patterns) to convey meaning—simultaneously combining hand shapes, orientation and movement of the hands, arms or body, and facial expressions to fluidly express a speaker's thoughts. Sign languages commonly develop in deaf communities, which can include interpreters, friends and families of deaf people as well as people who are deaf or hard of hearing themselves.
A common misconception is that sign languages are somehow dependent on oral languages, that is, that they are oral language spelled out in gesture, or that they were invented by hearing people. Hearing teachers in deaf schools, such as Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, are often incorrectly referred to as “inventors” of sign language
There are both one-and two-hand systems of finger spelling. The Americans and Swedes, for example, use one hand, while the British use two. The two-handed system is faster and provides more easily identifiable letters but it does not allow a hand free for other uses.
Signing Ordinary Language (SOL) system has certain important advantages for the learner. By learning it, not only will the person be able to communicate with other hearing-impaired persons (who know the system) but the learner will have knowledge of the syntax and vocabulary of the ordinary language as well. The ordinary language would then not have to be learned as a remote second language (as far as vocabulary and syntax is concerned) by persons whose native language is an independent sign language. For the same reason, too, learning to read will not be as difficult.
4.4.3 Independent Sign Language (SL)
Three basic components of SL:
1. Hand Configuration, how the hand is formed;
2. Place of articulation, where the hand is formed;
3. Movement, how the hand moves.
SL has syntactic rules too. SL sentences are radically different with languages such as Signing Exact English. SL sentences are not linear sequences but three-dimensional creations. Such a space allows for combinations of meanings and the simultaneous blending of a number of meaning elements that cannot be produced quickly and with a minimum of effort.
4.5 The Sign Language Struggle in Deaf Education
4.5.1 SL out of the Closet and Into Respectability
In the 1970s the proponents of SL began to succeed. Soon SL was actively taught in a large number of schools for the deaf in the US, Sweden, and other countries. The SL deaf community came out of the closet, so to speak. Signers began to gain confidence and pride and to communicate such feelings to the public at large. SL has become so widespread that most people in the deaf community in the United States and Canada now use ASL in communicating with one another. SL allows them to communicate in a highly efficient way with a means that is most congenial to them.
4.6 The Oral Approach
The Oral Approach has a worthy aim, to teach the hearing-impaired to produce and understand speech so that they can communicate with the hearing community. Unfortunately, historically, its supporters, who controlled education in the schools, advocated the use of speech to the exclusion of any other means of communication.
The Oral Approach focuses on the teaching of speech production. A great problem with the Oral Approach is that it tends only to work for a portion of the hearing-impaired population.
4.7 The Written Language Approach
4.7.1 The Importance of Literacy and Essentials of the Approach
Since the hearing-impaired person’s knowledge of speech-based language is usually quite limited, the ability of that person to acquire literacy based on that knowledge is similarly limited. It is not surprising that we find that most hearing-impaired people are able to secure only low-level jobs, when they are able to secure jobs at all. A high level of literacy is essential if the hearing-impaired are to realize their potential. The essential idea of this approach is that the meaningful written forms of an ordinary speech-based language such as English or Spanish (its words, phrases and sentences) are acquired through direct association with objects, events and situations in the environment.
4.7.2 Historical Perspectives
Alexander Graham Bell had taught written language to a 5 years old deaf boy with some success and those 200 years before him a thinker by the name of Dalgarno had, in 1680, formulated the same approach at Oxford.
4.7.3 Written Language and Reading Distinguished
The main difference is that written language is learned directly from the environment without the use of any prior linguistic medium, such as sign language or speech. Reading, by contrast, is learned through a linguistic medium.
4.7.4 Assessment of the Written Language Approach
There are a number of distinct advantages to the Written Language Approach:
1. The learning medium is appropriate;
2. Written language knowledge need not be acquired by the instructors;
3. Instruction can begin early;
4. All hearing-impaired children can benefit;
5. Written language acquisition is compatible with other approaches;
6. Written language knowledge can facilitate speech;
7. Written language can raise intellectuality.
4.8 A Parting Note on Deaf Education
A number of different approaches to deaf education have been discussed. Sign Language, the Oral Approach, Total Communication, and the Written Language Approach. The hearing-impaired would benefit by the application of all of these approaches. While some approaches may be more beneficial than others, depending on the degree of hearing loss, it is a matter of justice that every hearing-impaired person should be given the opportunity to expand their linguistic skills through each and every one of them.

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