Friday, 7 June 2013

Which Sign Language?

What about baby signing?
So here's my concise tour of the sign systems and related languages of the UK. 

Imagine a colourful spectrum of languages with the British English Language (BEL) at one end of the spectrum and British Sign Language (BSL) at the other. Both are proper languages but one (BEL) uses sounds and intonation as a means of expression whereas the other (BSL) uses gestures and expressions. Each have their own unique sounds/signs and grammar and are used by the majority of people in their respective communities. Both languages have developed in the United Kingdom but have done so quite independently. That's roughly the relationship between BEL and BSL today. History however has a more colourful story to tell and it's only as recently as March 2003 that the British Government adopted BSL as one of the nation's official languages.

Between the BEL and BSL bookends we have an array of sign systems that have developed for similar yet different reasons; all the sign systems discussed here are forms of Manually Coded English, meaning they combine signs with speech to teach English:

British English Language (BEL)
British English is the native language of the United Kingdom. It is primarily used by hearing people and bilingual (BSL and BEL) deaf people.

Origin: Britain 11th century
Hand signs: NO
Colour codes: NO
Fingerspelling: NO
Sentence structure: subject-verb-object
Grammatical markers: YES
Voiced YES
Mouth patterns: YES
Word order: English 
Key words only: NO
Graphic symbols: YES (English writing)
Usage: at least 62 million hearing and bilingual (BEL, BSL) deaf people in the UK.

Two-handed Fingerspelling (FS2)
FS2 uses both hands to make hand signs that represent the letters of the English alphabet. Not to be confused with One-handed Fingerspelling (FS1).

Origin: UK 1720
Hand signs: NO
Colour codes: NO
Fingerspelling: YES (FS2)
Sentence structure: none
Grammatical markers: NO
Voiced NO
Mouth patterns: NO
Word order: NO
Key words only: NO
Graphic symbols: YES (English alphabet)
Usage: Supplements most sign systems and sign languages.

Cued Speech (CS)
Cued Speech was created by Dr Orin Cornett of the US in 1966. He noticed the poor reading abilities of deaf children because they cannot hear spoken language and therefore cannot distinguish visually between sounds like /p/ and /b/. CS comprises 8 handshapes in 4 positions near the mouth as well as the lipshape of English speech. CS is best known in the US and is sometimes used in the UK by the English speaking BSL community.

Origin: US 1966 by Dr Orin Cornett
Hand signs: YES (handshapes & positions)
Colour codes: NO
Fingerspelling: NO
Sentence structure: subject-verb-object
Grammatical markers: NO
Voiced: YES
Mouth patterns: YES 
Word order: English
Key words only: NO
Graphic symbols: NO
Usage: US and UK bilingual deaf community.

Cued Articulation (CA)
Cued Articulation was created by Jane Passy of the UK in the early 1980s. She noticed the difficulty that speech and language impaired children had in producing and recalling speech sounds. CA comprises 49 speech sounds (phonemes) together with hand cues (signs) and colour codes. CA uses the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) to express the articulation of phonemes. There are 26 consonant speech sounds with colour codes and 23 vowel speech sounds (which have no colour codes). The system of hand gestures (cues) shows how and where each sound is made and if the sound is voiced or voiceless. For consonants, the position of the hand indicates where the sound is made; the shape and movement of the hand shows how the sound is made and the use of one finger or two indicates if the sound is voiceless or voiced respectively. For vowels, which are always voiced, the whole hand is used for cueing; the shape shows the degree of lip rounding or spreading; the movment shows if the sound is long or short and the direction of the hand shows whether the sound is made in the front, middle or back of the mouth. CA is best known in the UK, Ireland, South Africa and Australia where it is used in special and mainstream schools to help children become aware of how to articulate the sounds of English speech. It is not used widely among the British Deaf community. Maria's Special School uses CA.

Origin: UK early 1980s by Jane Passy
Hand signs: YES (hand cues)
Colour codes: YES
Fingerspelling: NO
Sentence structure: subject-verb-object
Grammatical markers: NO
VoicedYES
Mouth patterns: YES 
Word order: English
Key words only: NO
Graphic symbols: NO
Usage: UK by people with hearing or speech impairment and those learning English.

Paget Gorman Sign Speech (PGSS)
Systematic Sign Language was first developed by Sir Richard Paget in the 1930s to teach deaf children to speak English. A new version called PGSS was released in 1964 by Lady Paget and Dr. Peter Gorman. PGSS comprises 37 basic-signs and 21 standard hand postures which roughly match English words to PGSS signs, although there are additional signs for grammatical markers (affixes) like '-er', '-ing' and '-ful'. PGSS uses English grammar and children are encouraged to speak as they sign, with facial expressions like that of a native English speaker. PGSS signs are not derived from any other sign system and it was forced on some children in Deaf schools from the 1960s to 1980s, after which it lost popularity to BSL. Nowadays PGSS is used mainly by children with speech disorders who do not have learning disabilities. 

Origin: UK 1930s by Sir Richard Paget; 1964 by Lady Paget & Dr Peter Gorman.
Hand signs: YES (PGSS)
Colour codes: NO
Fingerspelling: YES (FS2)
Sentence structure: subject-verb-object
Grammatical markers: YES
Voiced YES 
Mouth patterns: YES 
Word order: English
Key words only: NO
Graphic symbols: NO
Usage: UK by people with speech disorders but without learning disablities.

British Signed English (BSE)
Signed English (SE) was originally developed by Harry Bornstein in 1974 to teach deaf children to speak English. The British variant, called British Signed English (BSE), has a vocabulary of BSL or generated signs (sign words), fingerspelling (FS2) and grammatical markers (sign markers) like '-er', '-ing' and 'un-'. BSE is presented with normal speech to convey the full BEL grammar. BSE is not intended for everyday communication because it is slow but is used to teach English grammar. It's not clear how many still use BSE in the UK, possibly some bilingual Deaf people.

Origin: US 1974 by Harry Bornstein
Hand signs: YES (sign words: BSL and generated signs)
Colour codes: NO
Fingerspelling: YES (FS2)
Sentence structure: subject-verb-object
Grammatical markers: YES (sign markers)
Voiced YES 
Mouth patterns: YES 
Word order: English
Key words only: NO
Graphic symbols: NO
Usage: possibly some UK bilingual Deaf people

Makaton
Makaton was first developed by Margaret Walker around 1972 to help cognitively impaired deaf adults to communicate. The original Makaton Vocabulary comprised 145 signs but was revised in 1976 by the Revised Makaton Vocabulary project to 350 signs. Eventually the Makaton Vocabulary Development Project (MVDP) came under pressure from groups like Signalong to expand the vocabulary to around 2500 signs. Currently the Makaton Vocabulary has a Core Vocabulary of 450 concepts and a Resource Vocabulary of over 11,000 concepts covering topics like: money, sport, food & drink, religion & custom, sexuality and grammatical elements; each concept is represented by both a sign and a symbol. Signs are usually based on BSL from the London and South East England region; sometimes these are simplified. Some signs are generated. 
Nowadays Makaton signs  and symbols can be used in three ways (the names of the modes are mine, not Makaton's): 
1. BSE mode: to represent every word in a sentence; e.g. the man is eating an orange.
2. SSE mode: to represent the key words in a sentence; e.g. man eating orange
3. Function mode: to represent the whole sentence; e.g. eating
The English mouth patterns are always voiced. Makaton is used mainly in schools where children have speech and language disorders; Maria's special school uses Makaton. However, users beware; The Makaton Charity has copyrighted the Makaton system

Origin: UK 1972 by Margaret Walker.
Hand signs: YES (BSL, simplified BSL and generated signs)
Colour codes: NO
Fingerspelling: officially NO; unofficially YES (FS2)
Sentence structure: subject-verb-object
Grammatical markers: YES (BSE mode); NO (SSE mode)
Voiced YES
Mouth patterns: YES
Word order: English
Key words only: NO (BSE mode); YES (SSE mode
Graphic symbols: YES
Usage: children and adults with speech disorders who have learning difficulties.

Signalong
Signalong was founded by Gill Kennard and Thelma Grove in 1992 at the National Autistic Society special school in Kent, UK after the Makaton Vocabulary Development Project (MVDP) failed to expand their vocabulary sufficiently. Signalong is now managed by The Signalong Group charity and the Signalong sign system contains over 15,000 signs, most based on BSL but some are simplified and other signs are generated. I haven't been able to find out much about this signing system based on publicly available sources. It would help their cause if they offered more free information on how their system works; and someone in the Group should write a really good article in Wikipedia about their origins, history, philosophy and implementation of the sign system itself. Maria's new school in South Wales uses Signalong instead of Makaton; any differences between the two systems seem to have escaped Maria. 

Origin: UK 1992 by The Signalong Group.
Hand signs: YES (BSL, simplified BSL and generated signs)
Colour codes: NO
Fingerspelling: unknown
Sentence structure: subject-verb-object
Grammatical markers: NO
Voiced YES
Mouth patterns: YES
Word order: English
Key words only: YES
Graphic symbols: NO
Usage: children and adults with speech disorders who have learning difficulties.

Baby Sign Language
Baby Sign Language was first developed by Dr Joseph Garcia in 1987 in order to help babies and young children to communicate with their hearing parents. Garcia was an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter. He noticed that the children of his deaf friends were communicating in ASL with their parents as early as six months; these children had quite developed vocabularies by the age of nine months. In contrast, hearing children typically speak a few words at the age of one year and have a small vocabulary at the age of two years. The early language development of so called 'handicapped' Deaf children was noticed as early as the 19th century by the American linguist and Yale professor William Dwight Whitney.  

Origin: US 1987 by Dr Joseph Garcia.
Hand signs: YES (ASL or BSL with simplified BSL)
Colour codes: NO
Fingerspelling: YES (FS2)
Sentence structure: subject-verb-object
Grammatical markers: NO
Voiced YES
Mouth patterns: YES
Word order: English
Key words only: YES 
Graphic symbols: NO
Usage: typically infants of 9 months to 3 year old toddlers.

Sign Supported English (SSE)
Sign Supported English (SSE), also known as Signs Supporting English, was developed at Meldreth Manor School, Hertfordshire in the 1960s by the Deaf community themselves to help children with profound and multiple learning difficulties and complex needs. SSE uses BSL signs and fingerspelling to sign the key words of an English sentence using BEL word order. SSE doesn't use grammatical markers like BSE and does not require knowledge of BSL grammar. The English mouth patterns can be either voiced or unvoiced.  SSE is used in mainstream schools where deaf children are taught alongside hearing children and also for children with learning disabilities.

Origin: UK 1960s at Meldreth Manor School in Hertfordshire
Hand signs: YES (BSL)
Colour codes: NO
Fingerspelling: YES (FS2)
Sentence structure: subject-verb-object
Grammatical markers: NO
Voiced YES
Mouth patterns: YES
Word order: English
Key words only: YES
Graphic symbols: NO
Usage: hearing people who subsequently become deaf or Deaf people who engage with hearing people. Also used by people with learning disabilities.

British Sign Language (BSL)
BSL uses native BSL signs together with fingerspelling to express BSL sentences in BSL grammar. The words are always unvoiced. In BSL 'name you what?' means in English 'what is your name?'. There are around 50,000 deaf people in the UK. BSL is the first language of the UK Deaf community. BSL was officially recognised by the British Government as being a full, independent language in March 2003. BSL can also be used by mute people; previously, Maria fell into this category.

Origin: Britain 1570
Hand signs: YES (BSL)
Colour codes: NO
Fingerspelling: YES (FS2)
Sentence structure: topic-comment
Grammatical markers: NO
Voiced: NO 
Mouth patterns: YES
Word order: BSL
Key words only: YES
Graphic symbols: YES (notation system for shape (dez), place (tab) and movement (sig))
Usage: mainly people who were born profoundly deaf, although mute people also use BSL to express themselves.

Key
Hand signs: does this system use hand signs? The term simplified BSL means the signs are based on BSL but are adapted for the user. The term generated means the signs are created for the particular sign system.
Colour codes: does this system use colour coding to help identify sounds?
Fingerspelling: does this system use fingerspelling? It can be of either one-handed (FS1) or two-handed (FS2) fingerspelling.
Sentence structure: the most typical type form of sentence. It can be subject-verb-object (e.g. Have you been to France?) or topic-comment (e.g. France been?)
Grammatical markers: does this system use signs to mark the endings of words e.g. '-s' for plural.
Voiced: does this system require the signer to voice the words? Note that unvoiced words are written as crossed out e.g. you (in BSL you would simply point, without saying the word).
Mouth patterns: does this system require the signer to mouth the words?
Word order: which language order does this system use: BSL or BEL?
Key words only: does this system require the signer to sign only key words?
Graphic symbols: does this system also include additional graphic/iconic symbols?

References
1. 'Sign Language: The study of deaf people and their language' by J.G. Kyle and B Woll (1985). The book is dated but much of the information is still relevant, particularly chapter 13.
2. 'Sign In Sight: A Step into the Deaf World' by Cath Smith (1992)
3. 'Words In Hand: A structural analysis of the signs of the British Sign Language' by Mary Brennan, Martin D Colville and Lilian K Lawson (1984).
4. 'Dictionary of British Sign Language/English' edited by David Brien (1992). 
5. 'Makaton Core Vocabulary Signs', The Makaton Charity (2010).
6. 'British Sign Language: London and South East Regional Signs' by Frances Elton and Linda Squelch (2009).
7. 'Manual Communication: Implications for Education' edited by Harry Bornstein (1990).
8. 'The Linguistics of British Sign Language: An Introduction' by Rachel Sutton-Spence and Bencie Woll (1999).
9. 'The Comprehensive Signed English Dictionary' edited by Harry Bornstein, Karen L Saulnier and Lillian B Hamilton (1983).
10. 'Sing and Sign Vocabulary Book' by Sasha Felix (2005).
11. 'Let's Sign Dictionary: Everyday BSL for Learners' by Cath Smith (2009).
12. Signed Systems by Frances Elton.
13: 'Hidden Histories: Deaf Education in the Seventies'.

5 comments:

  1. Dear Edward, I would like to know where did you get from all the information above. I mean the scheme about BSL, Makaton, Cued Articulation and their detailed information. Did you organize this information by yourself or there is a specific article? Thanks!!

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    Replies
    1. Hello Michelle.
      This article was written by me following extensive research using original sources. I've used all the sources referenced and more not mentioned.
      Thanks for your interest,
      Edward.

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  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  3. Dear Edward,
    I would like to comment about your post on Cued Articulation.
    It needs to be pointed out that Cued Articulation is not used as a form of communication. Its value is in the fact that, as the cues reflect the articulatory features of the sounds they represent, it is used by Speech and Language Therapists to help children with speech difficulty make those sounds, and to heighten their awareness of them. This is how Jane Passy first introduced the system when she was working as a Speech Therapist in Victoria, Australia, in the 1970s.
    But its much more common use now is by teachers in mainstream classrooms in their routine literacy program. Many teachers see it as a valuable tool to facilitate the development of phonemic awareness, now recognised as an essential skill for the development of reading. This was demonstrated in an article in a Times Educational Supplement article in 2015, see http://www.soundsforliteracy.co.uk/documents/TES-30_31_091015.pdf Many teachers in schools in the UK, and even more so in Australia, have undertaken the training which enables them to implement Cued Articulation as part of their daily classroom routine. In undertaking this training, teachers become more aware themselves of how speech sounds are produced and how our English sound system works which, they report, informs their teaching practice. For further information about Cued Articulation please go to http://www.soundsforliteracy.co.uk/cued-articulation.html

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    Replies
    1. Dear Helen,
      Thank you for taking the trouble to read this blog and writing to me. I based my information on the 2010 edition of "Cued Articulation" by Jane Passy but clearly your comments go beyond that book to describe how CA is used today. So thank for the update. I've already changed the article to reflect what I think you've said, but please let me know if there's a better way of expressing it.
      Many thanks again
      Edward

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