Moments of Permanence - [redacted title]

About [redacted title]

Previous Entry [redacted title] Jun. 7th, 2009 @ 08:08 pm Next Entry

Leave a comment
[User Picture Icon]
From:[personal profile] lindra
Date: June 17th, 2009 10:11 pm (UTC)
(Link)
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.
[User Picture Icon]
From:[personal profile] sami
Date: June 21st, 2009 04:06 am (UTC)
(Link)
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.
[User Picture Icon]
From:[personal profile] lindra
Date: June 21st, 2009 06:38 am (UTC)
(Link)
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?
[User Picture Icon]
From:[personal profile] sami
Date: June 25th, 2009 06:53 am (UTC)
(Link)
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.
[User Picture Icon]
From:[personal profile] sami
Date: June 25th, 2009 06:56 am (UTC)
(Link)
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.
[User Picture Icon]
From:[personal profile] lindra
Date: June 28th, 2009 08:22 am (UTC)
(Link)
I replied to this comment further down, by the by. GMail is fucking with me, sorry!
[User Picture Icon]
From:[personal profile] sami
Date: June 28th, 2009 08:27 am (UTC)
(Link)
k. Will answer comprehensively when I can... for immediacy, though, have edited post title. Apologies for past harm caused thereby.
[User Picture Icon]
From:[personal profile] lindra
Date: June 28th, 2009 08:28 am (UTC)
(Link)
Thank you. That means a lot. Really, it does. Thank you. ♥♥♥
[User Picture Icon]
From:[personal profile] sami
Date: July 12th, 2009 07:26 am (UTC)
(Link)
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.
[User Picture Icon]
From:[personal profile] lindra
Date: July 12th, 2009 10:18 pm (UTC)
(Link)
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.
(Leave a comment)
Top of Page Powered by Dreamwidth Studios