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Around the World in 50 Minutes: Understanding How Country Signs are Created and Used in American Sign Language

Around the World in 50 Minutes: Understanding How Country Signs are Created and Used in American Sign Language

Presentation to 2018 Utah Valley University Spring Silent Weekend about how country/geographical signs are created, altered, and used in American Sign Language (ASL).

Based on research in 2010 Deaf Studies Today! presentation about historic semantic creation in geographic ASL signs. (This presentation is an updated version of 2013 presentation of the same name.)

Doug Stringham

March 10, 2018
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  1. 2018 UVU SILENT WEEKEND
    Around the World

    in 50 Minutes
    Understanding How Country Signs are Created and Used
    Doug Stringham, MS, UT QAIII | Utah Valley University
    ©2018 Doug Stringham. An Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0; https://creativecommons.org/

    licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0) covers all pages in this work; this license does not apply, however, to work claimed by other authors and producers.

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  2. What are we doing today?

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  3. • Learn about and understand where
    ASL country signs come from and how
    they evolve
    • Understand how Deaf communities 

    use and identify themselves with certain
    country signs

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  4. • Visualize a proposed framework for
    country sign creation/validation
    • Learn several indigenous country signs

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  5. You’re a nerd, you know that?
    So, where did this
    information come from?

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  6. Analysis of country signs in 17
    sign language dictionaries
    printed between 1909 and 2005.

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  7. That’s way nerdy, nerd-dude.
    Country politics and signs
    have always changed.

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  8. 1910
    Pre-WWI Makeup of
    European States

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  9. 1945
    Post-WWII Makeup of
    European States
    That happened
    in only thirty-five
    years.

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  10. Long (1909/18)
    The Sign Language: 

    A Manual of Signs

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  11. Long (1909)
    SCOTLAND. Bring the “5” hands up in front,
    palms toward self, the palm of the right hand
    resting against the back of the left in such a
    way that the fingers of both hands cross at
    an angle representing an “X;” let the hands
    drop away toward the sides. Note that the
    fingers when thus held represent the plaid.

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  12. Long (1918)
    SCOTLAND. Bring the “5” hands up in front,
    palms toward self, the palm of the right hand
    resting against the back of the left in such a way
    that the fingers of both hands cross at an angle
    representing an “X;” let the hands drop away
    toward the sides. Note that the fingers when
    thus held represent the plaid.
    SCOTLAND. (2) Place back of the extended right
    hand across the left arm; draw it across and
    then turning the hand over repeat, representing
    plaids on arm.

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  13. Higgins (1923/42)
    How to Talk to the Deaf;
    the language of gestures, expression,
    impersonation, pantomime or acting, used by all
    people in all ages and everywhere

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  14. Higgins (1923)
    SCOTCH: Palms inward, open fingers
    crossed, hands drawn apart down to
    sides; or, tips of right prone spread
    fingers along left sleeve and then across
    to indicate the plaid.

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  15. Higgins (1942)
    SCOTCH: Tips of right prone spread
    fingers along left sleeve and then across
    to indicate the plaid.

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  16. SCOTLAND4
    Humphries 1980
    Evolution of SCOTLAND
    SCOTLAND1
    Long 1909/18
    SCOTLAND2
    Higgins 1923/42
    SCOTLAND3
    Riekehof 1963

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  17. SCOTLAND7
    Valli 2006
    Evolution of SCOTLAND
    SCOTLAND5
    Fant 1983
    SCOTLAND6
    Smith 1989

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  18. Evolution of MEXICO
    MEXICO4
    Valli 2006
    MEXICO3
    Stokoe 1965
    MEXICO2
    Watson 1964
    MEXICO1,4
    Long 1909, Smith 1989

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  19. Seriously, you’re a nerd.
    Great, so what sign am I
    supposed to use now?

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  20. Framework for 

    identifying valid & reliable
    geographic sign variations

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  21. Robert
    Palella
    2nd ASL Fest, Gallaudet
    University (2007)

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  22. What do we see Deaf
    people doing with
    “newer” country signs?

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  23. • Signs are not necessarily changing 

    as a reaction to so-called ‘political
    correctness’
    • Other countries do consider ASL’s use of
    their indigenous sign as ‘respect;’ fosters a
    globalism at international conferences and
    sporting events

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  24. • Some ASL signs have been as insulting,
    focused on physical characteristics
    (examples?)
    • Signs are being borrowed because signs for
    a country may not be present in ASL

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  25. • Reduces the need for fingerspelling
    • “We already have a sign for a country; 

    why replace it with another (non-ASL,
    outsider?) sign?”

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  26. • Spoken languages do not use 

    indigenous names for other countries 

    (do you say ‘Deutschland’ or ‘Germany’;
    ‘Japan’ or ‘⽇日本’?)

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  27. vexillogical
    Sign describes a physical, symbolic, or
    conceptual characteristic of a nation’s flag

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  28. Vexillogical country signs (Valli, 2006)
    Germany1
    Austria

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  29. Vexillogical country signs (Valli, 2006)
    Guatemala
    Greece2

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  30. Vexillogical country signs (Valli, 2006)
    Lebanon
    Hong Kong2

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  31. Vexillogical country signs (Valli, 2006)
    Switzerland
    Nicaragua

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  32. Vexillogical country signs (Valli, 2006)
    Turkey
    Thailand

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  33. Vexillogical country signs (WFD Países-Sinais, 2003)
    Syria
    Malta

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  34. geographical
    Sign describes a physical, topographic, or
    geographical characteristic of a nation

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  35. Geographical/country signs (Valli, 2006)

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  36. Geographical/country signs (Valli, 2006)

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  37. Geographical/country signs (Valli, 2006)

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  38. Geographical/country signs (Valli, 2006)
    Namibia (shape)

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  39. Geographical/country signs (Valli, 2006)
    Norway (geography)

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  40. Geographical/country signs (Valli, 2006)
    Italy (shape)

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  41. Geographical/country signs (Valli, 2006)
    Sri Lanka (shape)

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  42. Geographical/country signs (Valli, 2006)
    Portugal (shape)

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  43. Geographical/country signs (Valli, 2006)
    Brazil (shape)

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  44. Africa (area) Sweden (features) Asia (area)
    Geographical/country signs (Valli, 2006)
    Smith
    1989

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  45. Geographical/country signs (Valli, 2006)
    Japan (shape) Iran (area)
    Haiti (geography)

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  46. Philippines (geography)
    Geographical/country signs (Valli, 2006)
    Panama (feature) Jamaica (shape)

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  47. ethnographical
    Sign describes cultural, personal, or customal
    characteristics of a nation or people
    (food, history, arts/music, clothing, animals, personal features, weather,
    military, transportation, linguistics, behaviors, religion, combinations)

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  48. Ethnographic country signs (Valli, 2006)
    Denmark (transportation)

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  49. Ethnographic country signs (Valli, 2006)
    Trinidad & Tobago (music)

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  50. Ethnographic country signs (Valli, 2006)
    Korea (military)

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  51. Ethnographic country signs (Valli, 2006)
    Malaysia (dance)

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  52. Ethnographic country signs (Valli, 2006)
    Russia (history/politics)

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  53. Ethnographic country signs (Valli, 2006)
    Taiwan2 (food)

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  54. Ethnographic country signs (Valli, 2006)
    Argentina (music) Australia2 (history)
    Bangladesh

    (clothing)

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  55. Ethnographic country signs (Valli, 2006)
    Belgium1 (history) Bolivia (animal) Bulgaria (personal)

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  56. Cuba (clothing)
    Ethnographic country signs (Valli, 2006)
    Canada (weather)
    alt. ‘maple leaf’
    Chile (vegetation)

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  57. Ethnographic country signs (Valli, 2006)
    China2 (personal) China3 (clothing) Egypt2 (history)

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  58. Ethnographic country signs (Valli, 2006)
    England1 (personal?) Finland2 (personal?) Germany2 (military)

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  59. Ethnographic country signs (Valli, 2006)
    Greece1

    (personal/history)
    Netherlands2 (personal) Holland1 (clothing)

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  60. Northern/Ireland1 (food)
    Ethnographic country signs (Valli, 2006)
    Indonesia (animal life)
    Ireland2 (personal/

    linguistic?)

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  61. Ethnographic country signs (Valli, 2006)
    India (religion/personal) Israel1 (personal) Jordan (linguistic)

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  62. Spain2 (clothing)
    Ethnographic country signs (Valli, 2006)
    Kenya (music) Palestine (clothing)

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  63. Yugoslavia

    (history)
    (dissolved 2003)
    Ethnographic country signs (Valli, 2006)
    Saudi Arabia (military) Vietnam2 (animal life)

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  64. abbreviatory
    Sign is pronounced by using the initials 

    of the nation’s (English) name
    (how valid/reliable is this? does it work only for the English name?)
    Ab

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  65. Costa Rica Dominican Republic or República Dominicana
    Abbreviatory country signs (Valli, 2006)
    Ab
    ¿Cuál es?
    Which one
    is it?

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  66. Pakistan United States
    Abbreviatory country signs (Valli, 2006)
    Ab
    Puerto Rico

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  67. El Salvador
    Abbreviatory country signs (Valli, 2006)
    Ab
    Smith 1989
    Hong Kong1 New Zealand

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  68. arbitrary/temporary
    Sign is pronounced seemingly by 

    none of the previous characteristics
    (how valid/reliable is this? created in contact/for pidgins?)
    ?

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  69. Belize
    Arbitrary/temporary country signs (Valli, 2006)
    ?
    Botswana

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  70. Belgium2
    Arbitrary/temporary country signs (Valli, 2006)
    ?
    Colombia Honduras

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  71. Paraguay
    Arbitrary/temporary country signs (Valli, 2006)
    ?
    Peru

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  72. Continuing education

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  73. facebook.com
    Sign
    Language
    of the Deaf
    World
    Deaf signers rendering
    indigenous country and city signs

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  74. spreadthesign.com
    Spread
    the Sign
    Several indigenous signs for
    and from multiple countries

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  75. aslresource.net
    ASL
    Resource
    Several indigenous signs for
    and from multiple countries

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  76. intrpr.info/arabicsl
    Arabic SL

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  77. spreadthesign.com
    International
    signs
    Deaf signers rendering
    indigenous country signs in
    various SL

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  78. YouTube
    Countries
    Sign
    Language
    (DeafEyes777) n.d. https://
    www.youtube.com/watch?
    v=UXxcsiB6mpY

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  79. YouTube
    What is an
    appropriate
    sign for
    China?
    (John Warren) https://
    www.youtube.com/watch?
    v=KqMfcDMtDj0

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  80. vexillogical
    Sign describes a
    physical,
    symbolic, or
    conceptual
    characteristic of a
    nation’s flag
    geographical
    Sign describes a
    physical,
    topographic, or
    geographical
    characteristic of a
    nation
    abbreviatory
    Sign is
    pronounced by
    using the initials 

    of the nation’s
    (English) name;
    reliable? valid?
    Ab
    arbitrary/
    temporary
    Current sign has
    anomalous
    pronunciation;
    reliable? valid?
    contact/pidgin?
    ?
    Framework for geographic/country signs
    ethnographical
    Sign describes
    cultural, personal,
    or customal
    characteristics of
    a nation or
    people

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  81. Thank you.
    intrpr.info
    [email protected]
    @stringd

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