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From:[personal profile] sami
Date: June 25th, 2009 06:53 am (UTC)
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.



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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