ASL Browser.
April 30, 2004 7:05 AM   Subscribe

[this is good]

this is not an "age/sex/location?" browser!
posted by quonsar at 7:06 AM on April 30, 2004

Bravo on the effort this person put in!
posted by fluffycreature at 7:10 AM on April 30, 2004

Very, very useful and cool.
posted by psychotic_venom at 7:55 AM on April 30, 2004

Alright, I clicked on 'K', and


is possibly the most hilarious thing I've seen. Also, "Keep Your Hands Off" is my new hip gangsta motion.
posted by Stan Chin at 7:58 AM on April 30, 2004

[This good]

'Is' is superfluous anyway
posted by Fezboy! at 7:59 AM on April 30, 2004

My first thought was that this was going to be sort of like BabelFish, but for ASL.

My second thought was "Gracious, I am possibly the dumbest fucking person in the world."
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 8:19 AM on April 30, 2004

posted by davehat at 8:21 AM on April 30, 2004

Note the variations in the signs for vaccinate and heroin.
posted by biffa at 8:35 AM on April 30, 2004


The forefinger wipes across the chin which represents wiping beer from the chin.
posted by planetkyoto at 8:42 AM on April 30, 2004

This really is a brilliant link ... thanks xowie...
posted by kenaman at 8:45 AM on April 30, 2004

Mountain Dew.
posted by Danelope at 9:02 AM on April 30, 2004

What a bunch of manure.
Not really -- I just like that sign
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:29 AM on April 30, 2004

That must be why they call it American Sign Language, Danelope. Because Canadian Mountain Dew doesn't have all that caffeine.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:48 AM on April 30, 2004

Paging Miguel...

It is, however, missing a barnyard epithet I know and the (alleged) sign for Portland: letter P sign moving down indicating rain.
posted by turbodog at 11:36 AM on April 30, 2004

Excellent. I've seen versions of this before but this is much more complete. My g/f's 3 yr old has Down Syndrome and her dominant form of communication is ASL, this is a lot more helpful than books.
posted by m@ at 11:54 AM on April 30, 2004

I took a sign language class a while ago and while the vocabulary is facinating, the pragmatics are the most bizarre of any language I've tried to learn. When mastered, ASL is signed in four dimensions. (Counting speed and sequence as a dimension.) Pretty amazing.

An interesting quirk of history, ASL is a dialect of a French sign system while I believe Canadians sign using a British sign system. The result is that American and French signers can understand each other better than American and British signers. (Or so I've been told.)
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:33 PM on April 30, 2004

Damn I'm a dirty old man. My first thought was "A/S/L browser"
posted by RustyBrooks at 1:44 PM on April 30, 2004

And yet I managed to not read the FIRST COMMENT IN THE THREAD. Way to go!
posted by RustyBrooks at 1:44 PM on April 30, 2004

Yeah, quonsar's got the dirty old man thing tied down.
posted by abcde at 4:46 PM on April 30, 2004

I had the same thought as you PinkStainlessTail, so you're not alone. But I think it could be done! There are ASL fonts for the letter set, but I think the words could be done with animated .gifs of stick figures making the relevant motions. It'd be painful to try to read it for fun, but it would work as a teaching tool.

Anyway, I don't think this should be called a 'browser', the term for what this is is 'on-line dictionary', or failing that, 'website'. A browser opens websites.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 6:15 PM on April 30, 2004

ASL is recorded as SignWriting, for which there are indeed fonts.
posted by xowie at 7:05 PM on April 30, 2004

Love this site. My best friend's an ASL translator and I love watching him work. He didn't need to show me this one, though. Love those descriptions, too. She really looks like she enjoys doing some of the words.
posted by icetaco at 10:06 PM on April 30, 2004

KirkJobSluder- You are correct, ASL has its linguistic origins in French Sign Language (FSL), as it was taught to Gallaudet at the Martha's Vineyard school for the deaf by Laurent Clerc. A fascinating side note about that origin: Gallaudet initially went to Britain to examine their (at the time) famous method for teaching lipreading and voicing to deaf people. The administrator of the school in Britain, however, was possesive and secretive, and would only share his method for a price. On a shoestring (being paid by the community of Martha's Vineyard to start a school for the deaf), he could not pay. He instead travelled to France, where he observed the signing (and interpreting) of deaf students at a monastary. Laurent Clerc was the star pupil. Gallaudet was so taken with the skill with which he communicated, he offered Clerc a position as teacher in the first school for the deaf in america. On the long sea voyage to america, clerc taught Gallaudet rudimentary sign, and when the two returned to Martha's vineyard, they integrated FSL with the indiginous Martha's Vineyard sign, and ASL was born.

The linguistics of ASL are indeed fascinating, KirkJobSluder. From the sentence structure (often Topic-Comment, ie, OSV), to the fascinating morphology (temporally complex, spatial, gestural and nonmanual), to the uniqueness of both dialogue (conversations in ASL are highly interactive, with both signers contributing to the shared interaction) and discourse, ASL linguistics is fascinating to no end. For anyone interested in pursuing the study, I would highly recommend Valli and Lucas' The Linguistics of American Sign Language. It is a good entry-level introduction to Sign Linguistics (and linguistics in general). Oxford University Press also publishes The Sociolinguistics of American Sign Language, which is a great read, especially if you're into Sociolinguistics. The definitive read for learning ASL is undoubtedly "The Green Book", otherwise known as American Sign Language: A Teacher's Resource Text on Curriculum, Methods and Evaulation. Skip the student's texts, they're not as informative as the Teacher's book; it's published by Gallaudet University Press. For (American) Deaf history, there is not better book than Jack Gannon's Deaf History. Also Recommended is Everyone here spoke sign language, a fascinating book about the role commonplace heriditary deafness played in early Martha's Vineyard society. For a really fascinating look at evolutionary anthropology and linguistics, I'd suggest David Armstrong's Original Signs: Gesture, Sign, and the Sources of Language. For opinion from the godfather of ASL studies in America, there's William Stokoe's Language in Hand: Why Sign came before Speech. Heck, read anything published by Gallaudet University Press about ASL. Gallaudet is the only University in America for Deaf and hard-of-hearing signers. They're the experts.

xowie- SignWriting is an interesting experiment, but it should be noted that it is by no means the written form of ASL. ASL has no written form at all. SignWriting (along with many other articifial methods of recording ASL sign parameters) is simply a shorthand for writing the parameters that define a word in ASL. However, owing to the unique structure of ASL, the true depth of the meanings could never be codified to something as simple as SignWriting. Two very large problems with SignWriting include the fact that many important grammatical markers in ASL are purely spatial, incorporating space in front of, behind, and in every direction around the signer. Continuing referents in discourse depend on any number of unique and different locations in space, which ar egenrated by the signer as the situation warrants. Secondly, Classifiers (very complex gestural constructions which utilize general classes of objects to create noun and verb pairings of exceeding detailed nature) would be completely impossible in SignWriting. Classifiers are an absolutely essential part of 'pure' ASL.

Another problem with SignWriting (in my opinion), is the nature of the way it is presented. The web page proclaims "Signed Languages are now written languages!", while the truth of the matter is wholly different. At best, SignWriting is an interesting experiment. However, it seems to play into the larger phenomenon of people looking at ASL and thinking "Isn't that quaint, almost like a real language." Just like the animal communication experiments that utilize ASL glosses to communicate (partially) with gorillas, it serves to make ASL look like something less than a real language, something that can be easily changed, modified, supplemented, or is so simple that it can be taught to primates with no language capacity.

Lastly, of course, any linguist will tell you that artifical 'creation' of a linguistic form of communication is an endeavor doomed almost always to failure, and pursued very rarely by anyone with the understanding of either the language(s) involved, or the underlying linguistics involved. But tell that to all the esperanto speakers hanging around.
posted by Eldritch at 10:10 PM on April 30, 2004 [1 favorite]

My response for this post
posted by Down10 at 10:45 PM on May 2, 2004

LOL @ Mountain Dew. I wonder if PepsiCo approves of that.

Also, I noticed "yellow" is sorta "hang loose".
posted by Down10 at 10:50 PM on May 2, 2004

Down10, see also Play
posted by m@ at 4:36 PM on May 8, 2004

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