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From:[personal profile] sami
Date: June 15th, 2009 10:35 am (UTC)
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Okay. Let's dig in, with due love for DW comment length...

And what I found was that you apparently thought my plight, as you saw it, was important enough to post about and make a community toward rectifying, and plan things in attempting to make it better, and crusade for against those pointing out flaws, but in doing so you didn't reference me, my post, or my words. I felt like a cipher, my pain made into a metaphorical problem to be fixed, rather than a person being responded to.


I apologise for this, but there are reasons behind it: I honestly couldn't remember the person who wrote the article, and didn't manage to dig it out of my browser history. It just seemed like an indicator of the existence of a problem - one I'd clearly misunderstood, at that. (I suspect I was unmedicated for ADHD when I read it, because my reading comprehension is usually better than this.) I suppose I had a sort of "... project!" thing going in my head, and at the start of an idea I get very enthusiastic, but I wouldn't have felt comfortable accosting a stranger to say HEY WE SHOULD DO THIS THING! I tend to start more with an idea of "get in people I know, who can get in people THEY know, and..."

Which... yeah, I was going about it wrong, that rapidly became very obvious, but while intent does not excuse harm caused, it can be information worth having, y'know?

Even a stab at my name or what I had said would have helped prevent you from falling into that trap, because it is a trap, a trap of privileged thinking. I'm sure you're familiar with it from racefail, and the various posts there, about how the words of nonwhite/chromatic people, how the words of women, how the words of trans/genderqueer people, etc. etc., are appropriated. I felt appropriated and, as a result, made invisible.


Visualise a massive, massive wince at this: I totally see where you're coming from, I see that that's what I did, and I was hideously wrong to do so and I apologise unreservedly.

It is particularly telling to me that you immediately jumped from my personal feeling that "text and speech do not feel familiar", from my wish that I had the physical and mental spoons to be capable of learning sign language, to "Deaf people need a written language".

Can you see the disconnect there? The jump from my thinking to your privileged thinking? The twist from wanting 'a language I can communicate natively in', which I had said quite clearly was sign language, to the assumption that true, native communication = spoken and written?



I can see the disconnect, and also see where I had seriously failed at reading comprehension, because though I recognise the post as the one I was thinking of, I seriously had somehow managed to come away from it thinking that you were fluent in sign language and written English was too much a second language.

Setting aside my regret and shame at my general fail in this, that is just embarrassing.

You then go on to assume that literacy is what makes a language,


This is an extremely complicated thing to unpack, I think, because that's both true and not true.

See, many languages have been true and real languages that lived - and died - without a written form. But the thing, for me, is that a language that cannot be written is too precarious. Too many languages have already been lost, and there is no record of them, no means for their memorial, or resurrection, or preservation.

Part of why I'm still something of a prescriptivist, linguistically speaking, is the same reason given three hundred years ago for forming the dictionaries and grammars that the prescriptions come from - where language changes too much, that which was left behind becomes incomprehensible. Chaucer is almost unreadable to most people now, Shakespeare is difficult... but Jane Austen is fine.

And it is the written canon that has, through the centuries, served to maintain the coherency of the language.

Quite aside from your choice to speak for me, what you say there is not the issue. It is actually quite, quite, quite far from anything I recognise.


Yeah, see above re: reading comprehension 0% status.

But this: completely ignoring the existence of video collections of, indeed, poetry, which serve the same function in the appropriate modality

No, I'm aware of those. But I'm wary of that kind of thing for two reasons:

1) Video formats are less resilient and proven than they should be. I try to tell myself that modern technologies will keep supplying the backwards-compatibility necessary, at least now, but it's too easy to imagine brilliant poems, stored on degrading VHS tapes, not even yet digitally recorded. Books have lasted centuries, written words have lasted millennia. My perennial fear of things being lost from human knowledge and experience comes into play - and that does kind of terrify me. On some level, I believe that it's what makes us human, defines us as being more than mere animals. The drive to reach for art, for the transcendence of the mundane, is almost sacred to me. So if the cultural products of a subgroup of humanity are being kept in such a fragile medium, I find that quite upsetting.

2) Videos move too slowly. This may be a byproduct of my personal biases, which are not unaffected by things like having had severe ADHD all my life and only recently started being treated for it; as a means of transmitting information, it's going to be bounded in ways that are just too damn slow. A sign language translation of Pride and Prejudice, say, would take much, much longer than reading the book does. It's too slow. Poetry is one thing, poems are generally short, but videos for novels... I can't see that being feasible at all. And novels are important.

That is where the hurt came from. You were using my lack of a native language as a metaphor to allow you to further push my language away from me, to further delegitimise a method of communication, a means of language, that has been depreciated, devalued, banned, driven underground, dismissed, ripped apart, denied and decimated by hearing people over centuries of history where hearing people presumed they had the right to speak for us.


*nods* I can see where you get that. Which is my error. But that's not what I was trying to express, not what I wanted to do; what I was talking about (and which I now see didn't actually apply to your post at all, because apparently I was experiencing a bout of temporary aphasia or something) is the lack I perceive in there not being a form of sign language in which it's practical to write a novel. (If there is one, I'd love to hear about it.)

Because, to me, that's a sign an indication that for all the strides sign language has made towards being recognised as the genuine, legitimate language it is, there is still a lack, because there are areas of human creative impulse that to my knowledge are barred to deaf people in their native language. It just seems to me like injustice that a deaf person can't write or read novels unless they do so in a foreign language.

I'm delighted that there are deaf-culture-specific fields of cultural endeavour, but to me, in matters like this, subtraction is detraction. I object to there being fields of cultural (or other) endeavour to which deaf people don't have native-language access, where that access is barred by anything other than actual, physical limitation. If any given deaf person doesn't want to write or read long-form fiction in their native language, that's fine, but as far as I know no-one has that option, and that's unfair.

You may not have intended it -- but that is what you invoked. That is a history which you invoked. That is a history which you invoke with the title alone. The title, all by itself, hurts me to see. "Deaf people need a written language." Who are you to say that? How can you say that? Need. A written. Language.


I hope I've explained where I'm coming from on this, but in the interests of trying to make sure I'm clear on it: I don't want to delegitimise sign language. The reason I think it's lacking is that there is no choice, no option for deaf people to have something that there's no reason other than the lack of a written form of sign for them not to have.

I guess, inasmuch as this is a very privileged view, it's the thing where I recognise that I have a privilege, in this case a written language that comes to me as naturally as breathing, and my reaction to the realisation that this doesn't seem to be a privilege that deaf people share - emphasis on seem, on my perception, based on patent misreading of something anyway - is that this is injustice, and that it is a privilege that they should have.

There's a lot more to discuss, of course, a LOT more, a LOT LOT LOT, and I am not kidding when I say there is, but those two things -- and I can clarify them further and in specific if you have questions -- are where we need to start, I think. Because otherwise our viewpoints, and our framing, are simply going to be too different.


Indeed. Which is why I've mostly been kind of elaborating where I'm coming from, here, because I absolutely agree that we need to establish a framework of shared reference for this conversation to be productive. I am open to being told where I am still wrong. (And having just corrected exactly that, I apologise in advance if I use insultingly ablist metaphors at any point, and such. Feel free to call me on it and remind me that I'm an arse for doing it.)
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From:[personal profile] lindra
Date: June 16th, 2009 07:29 am (UTC)
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And my turn to reassure you that I'm fine and haven't given up on this comment -- I'm having a non-word day where I can't read anything (neurological issues flaring up) but I got to read it earlier and I've been thinking about it and I'll reply soon.

Thank you for your thoughtful response, and thank you for apologising. It means a lot. ♥

Just one thing, though -- from memory, what you call an embarrassing misreading is ... well. Something that happens to deaf people a lot. I have had this happen to me before quite a few times when posting about deaf issues. That's a lot of reading incomprehension, and I think while it possibly explains some, it doesn't explain all of it. Just a thought that perhaps your privilege/worldview is/was directly playing into how you read things?

I will point out, though, that the 'lack' of a written form of sign is sometimes seen as a bonus for this exact reason. The lack of access to people with a speaking-reading model of language is perhaps part of the point. Not all of it -- far from that -- but some of it. Yes? Because the a) history of denial of language is so recent, and b) sign languages as a whole are still in tenuous positions, and c) what you see as a lack I think can be seen as, hmmm. A lack of giving the hearing people weapons to use against us, so to speak. Because they are and will be misused, and people are more willing to learn writing forms than they are manual forms. It may seem counterproductive, and I agree in some respects that it is, but as it stands ... well. You're not in a position where you can be prescriptivist about this, however prescriptivist you are about your own language.

Sign languges evolve rapidly as a means of subterfuge against oppression; slang terms and sexual terms, and political terms are quite different now than they were ten years ago, for example, because of the publication of glosses which hearing people then took as an invitation to access.

I'll reply to the meat of your comment soon, but I just wanted to get that down while I was thinking of it.
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From:[personal profile] sami
Date: June 16th, 2009 01:21 pm (UTC)
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I... hmm.

I will point out, though, that the 'lack' of a written form of sign is sometimes seen as a bonus for this exact reason. The lack of access to people with a speaking-reading model of language is perhaps part of the point. Not all of it -- far from that -- but some of it. Yes? Because the a) history of denial of language is so recent, and b) sign languages as a whole are still in tenuous positions, and c) what you see as a lack I think can be seen as, hmmm. A lack of giving the hearing people weapons to use against us, so to speak.


This comes up hard against an element of my upbringing regarding deaf people, which is: the attitudes of family friend J (who's been friends with my mother since they were both newborns, and essentially *is* family), and has been profoundly deaf all her life, would be horrified at this, and a lot of my attitudes towards the deaf are learned from J, for the simple reason that she's the deaf person who's had a place in my life since I was born.

And J would be horrified at that, because she doesn't, at all, like the idea of trying to set deaf people apart from general society. She thinks deaf people should be a part of the community - she doesn't even approve of sign language, really, and neither she nor her (also deaf) husband learned it. (Because if you rely on sign language, you limit your ability to communicate naturally with hearing people.) The idea of actively avoiding communication with hearing society is not one I can see her being happy with.

(Please note that I am not opposed to sign language - I used to be, because J is, and J was the foundation of most of my preconceptions about deaf people, but my views have changed on this.)

Possiby as a consequence, I kind of recoil; not just at the fragility this gives deaf cultural artifacts, but also at the idea of deliberate separatism. If nothing else, ghettoising a culture, historically speaking, even in defence against oppression, tends to end badly, and I only sort of see how it's giving the hearing weapons to use against deaf people, if hearing people can parse some sign language.

If anything, making it more recognisable to the hearing might also help to make more widespread the realisation of how damn rude it is to watch a signed conversation in which you have no part.

And the thing is, when you talk of weapons to use against you... if people want to be assholes on this line, they will be, and can be, regardless of whether there's a written form of sign language.

... I'm losing coherency, I think due to extreme lack of sleep, so I'll try to pick this up again tomorrow after my day in court.
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From:[personal profile] lindra
Date: June 16th, 2009 06:33 pm (UTC)
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Yes,I know. It's a view I'm ... well. I mean. I go back and forth and up and down and around on this a lot, personally, and I've reached no clear conclusion.

My feeling on the matter is that a written form of sign is... hmmm. Not going to work. It's sort of incomprehensible with/against sign, for reasons I'm struggling to articulate. But there's a gut feeling there that, no, this doesn't work, and who the hell are you to say? It's defensive, but it's also... hmm. I think there's a recognition that sign is not a static medium, while written language is, and what you recognise as preservation comes across as sort of ... trapping the words, to me. Pinning them, like pinning down people's hands. Taking a language that is dynamic by necessity, by definition, in its movement (literally) and pinning it to a static page. Which is instinctively abhorrent to me.

The movement of sign language is intrinistic to its comprehension, to its syntax and grammar, and hearing ideals of written forms and what they represent just aren't there yet in order to work with sign languages in general, I think.

Stokoe Notation is more academic than anything, as far as I can tell, and SignWriting is localised American and still very static to boot. Really, you need three-dimensional paper for it to work, and at that point you might as well have video ... look, I don't know. But the examples you've cited earlier -- Chaucer to Shakespeare to Austen, well, sign language is in a roughly Shakespearean form at the moment, and I think thats part of why your approach bothers me a little -- novels are RECENT in the English language.

Comparatively, very recent. And yet you cite it as a need, a lack, when the fact remains that deaf people are so pressured, at this stage, to learn some of their local spoken/written language -- English, in my case -- that at least some rudimentary knowledge can be assumed, but the ways in which English is taught to deaf people are ... well. Prescriptivist (:P), and heavily biased against sign language.

I mean, from my point of view, personally, very personally, I don't lack for novels. I lack for a language in which I belong. And ... well. I can't say I regret fluency. But I do regret that the fluency is something I don't really take pleasure in, because it isn't my fluency, it's default from being in a very privileged position for a deaf child and being forced to learn to speak and write English as clearly and as much as possible from an early age. I mean, this was forced on me.

That choice was denied me. And in my personal view, that denial of choice is a greater wrong than whether or not we lack 'novels' when it is the case that most of our stories are collaborative. Sign is something you use to and with another person, it's very direct that way -- a lot of vlogs on YouTube are responses to responses to responses, for example -- and a lot of it is, well, concerned with that very issue. This isn't to say that novels, or epic oral storytelling, aren't important, or don't already exist in some form (they probably do). But novels and such are created by those with the leisure to do so.

There is a huge class/time/power equation thing going on that you don't seem to be taking into account quite as much as I feel is necessary -- there is a amount of security in the language that is required, and sign anguages are still under great, great pressure.

Take your friend J, for example. She doesn't like sign language? Fine. But she's not helping with her views. She could at least be a bit YMMV about it. But she isn't, from what you say, she's against it. The luxury to write novels in a language that is recognised as a language isn't ... well. It's getting there, but it is very much a luxury. How many centuries is it between Shakespeare and Austen? How many arguments, how many raging debates over the legitimacy of the language? You should have a passing familiarity with it. Add in the systematic efforts of denial by hearing people -- and those like J, whom hearing people use to legitimise their attempts to eradicate it, or devalue it or whatever (and not to say that you are doing that, but it is going on and J's views are so-oft repeated to me as to be tiresome, disclaimers or not), and the precariousness of it ... eeeeesh. I'm not sure you quite grasp how insulting it is that you as a hearing person -- and I'm sorry, but your linguistic credentials mean very little to me, because I've had it argued to my face by self-declared linguists (no idea if they were legit or not) that sign language Wasn't A Real Language -- declare it a need when the needs in question are far more basic: a need to be recognised, a need to be acknowledged and left the hell alone in some cases and allowed to spread in others, and so forth. And novel-writing, that kind of story-telling, that kind of ability to fabricate huge fictional swathes of worlds and so on when our language and our presence is still considered fictional by a lot of people ... well. Conditions are not right. Too much living and ongoing history.

(And personally? I find your dismissal of 'takes too much time' a little rankling. What about audiobooks? Some of those are very long, and made and created on what you term temporary media ...)

It's all murky and reflex BIG NO in my head, and I'll try to tease it out some more, see if I can articulate why.

Hope court goes well!
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From:[personal profile] sami
Date: June 16th, 2009 09:45 pm (UTC)
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*fights instinctive but she's a really lovely person! reaction*

I view J's hostility more as a symptom than anything else. She's sixtyish; she grew up internalising a lot of anti-sign preconceptions, and her hostility to sign is a product of that. Yeah, it's not helping, but it's not her fault, you know?

And personally? I find your dismissal of 'takes too much time' a little rankling. What about audiobooks? Some of those are very long, and made and created on what you term temporary media ...

Clearly should have gone through with my impulse to address this question. Basically: I also find that audiobooks take too much time. I have tried to listen to them, for various reasons, and am unable to do so. Intellectually, I now recognise that this is probably a byproduct of my ADHD, but that diagnosis is recent enough that I'm still in the process of integrating it into my understanding of stuff.

Also, audiobooks are usually alternative versions of printed stuff, so the less-fragile form is still there.

I don't process information fantastically well unless it's written; maybe on some level there's a factor of feeling like if I'd been deaf all my life, I'd be so profoundly alienated from *everything* I couldn't stand it. (If I were to become deaf now, it would be different, unless I had the kind of brain injury that would take away the ability to *remember* spoken language, and then I would still have a large set of new problems that aren't deafness-based.)

Stokoe Notation is more academic than anything, as far as I can tell, and SignWriting is localised American and still very static to boot. Really, you need three-dimensional paper for it to work, and at that point you might as well have video ... look, I don't know. But the examples you've cited earlier -- Chaucer to Shakespeare to Austen, well, sign language is in a roughly Shakespearean form at the moment, and I think thats part of why your approach bothers me a little -- novels are RECENT in the English language.

Yeah, that's why I figured both Stokoe Notation and SignWriting suck were not even close to what I was thinking of.

Novels took off just after the historical period where language was codified - which is also dependent on the Industrial Revolution, and yes, changes in leisure as well as printing technology, so maybe deaf novels will take off when we have some kind of nanotech moving paper or something, but the ways SN and SW don't work are precisely why I was thinking in terms of a new alphabet, one that wasn't an attempt to transliterate sign movement processes, but functioned as abstraction, the way existing written languages do.

... and now I shoudl go back to sleep, as it's a quarter to six and I'm supposed to go striaght back to sleep when I wake up too early. >.>
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From:[personal profile] sami
Date: June 17th, 2009 08:23 pm (UTC)
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So here's something else that occurred to me:

But I do regret that the fluency is something I don't really take pleasure in, because it isn't my fluency, it's default from being in a very privileged position for a deaf child and being forced to learn to speak and write English as clearly and as much as possible from an early age. I mean, this was forced on me.

That choice was denied me. And in my personal view, that denial of choice is a greater wrong than whether or not we lack 'novels' when it is the case that most of our stories are collaborative.


See, in a way, it's *establishing* that choice that is what I was thinking about. I mean, literacy is something people are going to push for, in general... why does English have to be the primary choice, when the more natural language is sign? kind of thing.
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From:[personal profile] lindra
Date: June 17th, 2009 10:11 pm (UTC)
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No, that's not quite right. Establishing the choice is establishing bilingualism at minimum. Learning English isn't in question, generally; that's assumed as The Rightful Thing. Learning sign is the question.

You're still thinking in terms of spoken-written. Please stop. It's manual vs and/or written/spoken. The choice is not written-written, and whether or not it should be is not the debate.
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From:[personal profile] sami
Date: June 21st, 2009 04:06 am (UTC)
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OK, sorry for delay, my brain fell apart for a bit for unrelated reasons.

I'm not sure what you mean by the second paragraph.

Re: the first: I can see that it's assumed that learning English is the Rightful Thing. I don't actually disagree with that, though; bilingualism isn't a bad thing, in my view, and while I didn't start learning a second language comprehensively until I was twelve, most of my relatives have been bilingual all their lives and that works fine for them. (I actually think learning multiple languages is good for people, because it makes it easier to consider different ways of thinking... but that's a complicated side-issue.)

What I am perceiving as... an omission, perhaps? is that there are modes of communication available in one language, but not the other. Which seems to limit range of available modes of expression. I'm not trying to say the ones that exist are *bad*, or inadequate for what they *do*, it's just, there's an option that doesn't exist.
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From:[personal profile] lindra
Date: June 21st, 2009 06:38 am (UTC)
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No worries for the delay! ♥

I don't disagree with bilingualism; I advocate for bilingualism! The problem is that bilingualism is so often not on hearing people's radar: it's so often English, and only English. But it being so heavily the Right Thing To Do, as automatically assumed by hearing people (often with heavy shades of 'Get Them To Talk and they'll be Just Like Us, and nobody will ever see/know that there's Something Wrong With Them') shunts aside sign languages to a huge extent.

The problem is that in fighting for bilingualism, hearing people fall short. Hearing people assume that teaching the local sign alphabet is enough. It isn't. It's a case of having to reach for sign-language-sign-language as first priority, because when it comes to hearing people, they will and do fall short of the mark.

This isn't really directed specifically at you; it's more a commentary on the outreach done by privileged groups, and the tendency to do less than is demanded, and the tendency to acknowledge only the extremities first and then worry about things like bilingualism.

Deaf people deal with a very entrenched speech-and-written mode of thought/communication in society in general, and to fight it, well, some polarisation is necessary, because the reach is so huge, and the forces working against sign language are so vast and so subtle.

I think ... well. I think you see a problem that, well, doesn't exist, and in calling for that problem you see to be acknowledged as a problem in general, you fall into the trap of moderation as advocated by the privileged (hearing people in this case) simply being another word for continued domination.

Sign languages are not English. It's a mode of communication insofar as it's manual; sign language is the shorthand for manual languages. There is no such thing as true Signed English. All sign languages are their own language, and they differ from each other to quite an extent.

I'm not sure what you're trying to say with 'modes of communinication'; if you mean that 'written/spoken and not manual' is available in English, and 'manual and not written/spoken' is available in sign languages, then, well ... yes. Of course. That's how it works, because manual languages are sign languages, and oral languages are spoken/written.

And it's not like 'the twain shall never meet', but they are not currently compatible, and that is, I believe, for the moment, perfectly okay. English terms can be fingerspelt or adapted into specific signs; that's all well and good. Some oral languages make extensive use of signs in spoken communication. That's all well and good. Some combine both and have oral/manual languages. That's all well and good.

I think you're working on a binary that's useful for discussion, but doesn't have much relevance. For textual communication, the language is English. Because manual languages are not oral languages. Period. They can be combined; they can be shifted about; they can be bilingual; they can transfer elements from one to the other; but there is a fundamental difference in modality. And honestly, your suggestion sounds like you want oral languages to alter their modality into one that you're more comfortable with.

I mean, perhaps the option that doesn't exist is because it doesn't need to? Because it's not relevant to where deaf people are in general?

I mean, okay, you've pulled out several fallacies in your discussion. You've pulled out My Deaf Friend J. I have deaf friends too, and it doesn't matter. J matters insofar as she informs your thinking. That's it. I'm sure she's a lovely person, but I think you've been misinformed about the way things work, and about the way sign languages work, and their sociolinguistics, and particularly their history. It isn't that deaf people are millitant, or extreme, or that they are separatist. It's that we must carve out our own spaces, and often we need to do that with subterfuge, or force, or other methods. We need our own legitimacy. It's possible to be a CODA -- a Child of Deaf Adults -- ie., a hearing child growing up with manual and oral language because they were born to deaf parents -- and it's possible to be a LDA, -- Late Deafened Adult -- who grew up hearing and, because of some accident or disease or other, came to sign, and is again bilingual, because they kept the language of their parents/etc. And these people straddle the line, and their existence is recognised and welcomed. There's no problem with that. (LDAs do tend to have more trouble with sign, but the community is generally welcoming.)

And CODAs tend to associate more with the deaf, and LDAs more with the hearing, in general, and that's generally expected, because it's what you're comfortable with, it's languages of the heart. And in languages of the heart, it's entirely possible to tell stories that take time and absorption and power. For you, your language of the heart is written, and your stories are in novels.

For the deaf, their stories are manual, with the hands. Think of it like oral storytelling: Homer, Gilgamesh, Beowulf. The invention of writing, and furthermore the invention of the printing press, are your privileges. I don't think you quite understand the profound place you have of being able to assume a written component to your oral language. That is an assumption you have, but it is an assumption that has only recently been made possible, and that again on the backs of colonialism, etc. You assume that written words are a natural, automatic component of oral languages. That is not so. It is a part of your language of the heart. But English's written/spoken oralism has little to do with manual languages, or with other oral languages that do not have a written component and don't actually suffer for it.

They suffer from colonialism, which has much, much, much to do with the languages of the oppressed. Colonialism and privilege give rise to the assumptions that other languages are lacking for not having that written component -- the same privileged logic you are using here against my language of the heart -- from the thinking that it would be made better if they had that writtten component, if they were, in short, more like your language. More like a real language.

You may not intend that to be what you are saying. You may mean well. You may intend to give options. But that is because you are ignoring the options that are already there. And in the process of focusing on that option that you see, you are marginalising those existing options.

You might not intend it, but it is what I am reading, because I have seen what words like yours do. Even if you mean well, you are still repeating tropes that have been used to ban and diminish and dismiss sign languages.

Perhaps it's because our perspectives are different. I've lost a language not once, but twice. First was the loss of AUSLAN, which I never had the opportunity to learn, and the second was English, which I learned and lost and regained.

English isn't my language of the heart, but it is the language I am fluent in. And it is the language I lost, in gradual progression, from 2002 to total illiteracy in 2006-7. I was like you when I was younger. English wasn't my native language, but it was a language I loved and understood and comprehended like breathing. I devoured books, plays, poems, anything I could get my hand on. I loved reading and I loved words.

And it got harder to read and harder to write. It started with not being able to finish academic textbooks. I thought I was just tired. Then it got to the point where I couldn't read what I wrote, I couldn't follow a sentence from one end to the other, I couldn't read maps, street signs, menus. I couldn't follow subtitles on television and I couldn't read a newspaper or a brochure.

It might sound like I'm describing a nightmare, and truth be told, it wasn't. It was terrible, of course, I felt like I'd lost something, I felt cast adrift. And then I adapted, bit by bit. Adaptation is the human condition. And even if the adaption is annoying, well, you adapt. And I adapted to not having a written form of my language. It was purely oral.

And the point of this isn't, you know, OMG LOST LANGUAGE WAAAAH. The point is adaptation and pain. I got English back bit by bit, but I still can't finish a book. I can read articles, but I can't finish a section of the newspaper. I can count the number of novels I've finished in the last five years on my fingers and toes and have digits left to spare. And it hasn't been a loss. Truly. Oh, it's been annoying. It's been painful and frustrating, and I've had to learn my limits, I've had to relearn how to read, how to comprehend written language, and that has been awful at times, too.

But it hasn't been a gutwrenching loss the way not having a language of the heart has been. Not having a language that is mine has been far, far worse.

And maybe what you want is to share the experience of having a language of the heart, but you can only imagine it being an oral language, or being like one. What I'm reading indicates that you feel it needs a written component to last, to mean something. To be, I don't know, part of the human experience.

And that isn't the case. It really, really isn't the case, and I wish you would stop thinking it does. Because there is so much experience to the contrary, and I think you could see it if you would allow yourself to.

I mean, I'm trying because I think you could be a valuable ally, and I'm trying because I think you're worth it, honestly, and I'm frustrated and a bit snappish because I'm not sure how to get what I want to say across without it losing too much in the divide between us.

But I can say that I ... well. I honestly don't see the fact that a manual/ language doesn't have the written form that an oral language does as a problem. I don't. I really don't. The problems that exist are between manual and oral languages and are problems of oppression, colonial attitudes toward languages (think on the etymology of 'barbarian/barbaric', for example, and consider what that means in light of history and in light of manual languages), appropriation, etc.

And the problem of manual languages generally not having a written component like that of a modern oral language is ... well. Academic. It's interesting to contemplate, but that's about it.

There's been a little research, as far as I'm aware, into Australian Aboriginal sign languages and the pictographs thereof, but that's all about all I'm aware of regarding manual languages with visual components other than sign. And the issue of manual and oral and combining elements won't be solved by the same thinking that eradicates manual languages for reasons of legitimacy, which is why you, as a hearing person, are not qualified to have this discussion. At least not right now.

Let me pose it to you this way: do you see it as an option that doesn't exist that oral languages generally don't have a manual component?
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From:[personal profile] sami
Date: June 25th, 2009 06:53 am (UTC)
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Deaf people deal with a very entrenched speech-and-written mode of thought/communication in society in general, and to fight it, well, some polarisation is necessary, because the reach is so huge, and the forces working against sign language are so vast and so subtle.

*nods*

Okay.

First, because I think I've been less clear on this point than I should: I think I understand this, and I get why it ties in to a hostility to my thoughts about written languages. It makes sense.

Where I guess I have... I don't know, maybe an idealistic streak in play? is that it rubs me the wrong way to say that this means deaf people shouldn't have everything hearing people have, including a native written language.

Sign languages are not English. It's a mode of communication insofar as it's manual; sign language is the shorthand for manual languages. There is no such thing as true Signed English. All sign languages are their own language, and they differ from each other to quite an extent.

Right. See, I know that. But that's *why* I perceive a problem. Our society has a deeply entrenched speech/written mode of thought and communication. I agree with you on that point, but possibly not on others, in that that's not something I think it would be possible to change. Not when the vast majority of people are hearing, and so communicate comfortably out loud, and when - even more than before - the prevalence of the Internet and so on makes text-based communication an integral part of life.

But this means that a deaf person can't send an e-mail in their own language, not even to another deaf person. Sure, you could send video, but the bandwidth requirements on that are a hell of a lot higher, and it's going to be problematic if you're hooked into crappy free WiFi at McDonald's.

For textual communication, the language is English. Because manual languages are not oral languages. Period. They can be combined; they can be shifted about; they can be bilingual; they can transfer elements from one to the other; but there is a fundamental difference in modality.

Yeah, but that's the thing: written language is not oral language, either. Where the written and oral languages are both English, or whatever, there's a fair amount of crossover, but written English does actually differ substantially in structure from spoken. Literal transcripts of spoken casual conversation tend to be rather shocking.

So it seems to me that the spoken/written binary doesn't have to be quite what's applied; signed/written as an option for people whose natural language is manual would mean a written language that also comes naturally.

I mean, okay, you've pulled out several fallacies in your discussion. You've pulled out My Deaf Friend J. I have deaf friends too, and it doesn't matter. J matters insofar as she informs your thinking. That's it.

That was pretty much all I was referring to. I think I specifically did say that I disagree with her now on her view on sign languages.

It's that we must carve out our own spaces, and often we need to do that with subterfuge, or force, or other methods. We need our own legitimacy.

And there is something of the problem, perhaps, because I can see that, but because I don't think it should be that way, I'm... *works out how to put this* I'm opposed to an oppressed minority being forced to define themselves in ways coded by the majority. I know it is the case, but after a certain point I firmly believe it's necessary to refuse to do that - but yes, I'm aware that while that is my call to make in my own areas of oppression, it isn't for other people.

The invention of writing, and furthermore the invention of the printing press, are your privileges. I don't think you quite understand the profound place you have of being able to assume a written component to your oral language. That is an assumption you have, but it is an assumption that has only recently been made possible, and that again on the backs of colonialism, etc. You assume that written words are a natural, automatic component of oral languages. That is not so.

OK, serious disagreement here.

First, that written language being a part of my language has any relationship to colonialism. I'm curious as to how you justify that. My native language is English; while British colonialism is the reason that I, unlike many of my kin, did not grow up bilingual, the closest the fact that written English exists gets to colonialism is that it uses the Roman alphabet, but the other ethnic groups on that side of my ancestry all had their own scripts going back millennia, so I'd have a written language in SOME form.

Second, I'm not assuming that written languages are a natural and automatic component of oral languages. (Although they're an extremely common one.) I'm assuming that written languages are an automatic and not particularly unnatural component of *modern* languages. There is no extant oral language I know of that can't be written down.

the thinking that it would be made better if they had that writtten component, if they were, in short, more like your language. More like a real language.

Not more like a real language. It is a real language. But it's a real language that can't be used for modes of expression that other languages can.

I mean, I'm trying because I think you could be a valuable ally, and I'm trying because I think you're worth it, honestly, and I'm frustrated and a bit snappish because I'm not sure how to get what I want to say across without it losing too much in the divide between us.

*nods* I appreciate your trying, and I'm sorry that I'm not getting it so far. I think on some level it's that I don't entirely see what sign would *lose* by having a written component, when I can see gains, in things like novels, but also in things like e-mail.

Let me pose it to you this way: do you see it as an option that doesn't exist that oral languages generally don't have a manual component?

To a very limited extent, given that a) gestural communication is still something that exists for the hearing and b) that, to me, would be analogous to considering it "an option that doesn't exist" for manual languages not to have an oral component. Oral language and manual language are for face-to-face communication; to a less satisfying extent, telecommunications allow those to pass over long distances.

But I can write fiction in my native language. I can e-mail and IM with my friends in my native language. Knowing there are people who can't do those things seems sad to me.
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From:[personal profile] sami
Date: June 25th, 2009 06:56 am (UTC)
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And for clarity: I recognise this is not my call, and I'm not (any longer) trying to say this is something that Should Be Fixed, or whatever; I'm still saying what I'm saying about why I think there's something missing for... clarity, I guess? It's not my decision, but this is still how I see the situation.
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From:[personal profile] lindra
Date: June 28th, 2009 08:22 am (UTC)
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I replied to this comment further down, by the by. GMail is fucking with me, sorry!
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From:[personal profile] sami
Date: June 28th, 2009 08:27 am (UTC)
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k. Will answer comprehensively when I can... for immediacy, though, have edited post title. Apologies for past harm caused thereby.
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From:[personal profile] lindra
Date: June 28th, 2009 08:28 am (UTC)
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Thank you. That means a lot. Really, it does. Thank you. ♥♥♥
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From:[personal profile] sami
Date: July 12th, 2009 07:26 am (UTC)
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Just to say - I'm totally not ignoring you, still intend to return to your last comment and have been thinking of it, I've just had a hideously evil cold for the last week and my brain is just not functioning on non-superficial levels.
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From:[personal profile] lindra
Date: July 12th, 2009 10:18 pm (UTC)
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Oh, it's absolutely fine, I've had evil medical side effects that've been knocking me out, so it's no worry at all, really.

I'm sorry to hear that you've been laid low -- I do hope that it goes away soon. :(

And thank you for telling me. I appreciate it.
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