ASL Combining Words & Images Blog 5 – Dylan Mercer

When thinking about Word and Image phenomena nothing comes clearer to my mind then Sign Language. I’m in American Sign Language 2 right now so it is fresh in my mind. It’s a form of communication that turns yourself into a media. You are the picture, the image, the tv show. I’ll explain about the Deaf/Mute communication as best I can. To tell a story through signs, gestures, body language, facial language, and other expressions, it’s best to start with the largest part first and work your way in. What’s the setting to your story? Is it happening in a castle, a grocery store, a classroom? Give the background first. Next is the subject. Who is in this story; you, your sister, the King of England, Batman? Then the Object (or rather the direct object in cases of complex sentences). The Verb comes last. So if you are trying to say, “Batman and I smashed the door down with clubs” it would be, *Door/ Batman and I/ clubs/ smashed*. You would start by shaping a hallway or something in which your door could be located. Then you expand on the story as your communication acquaintance watches and gets wrapped up into the picture you are creating for them. You paint the picture of Batman and you standing there, then pantomime the idea of holding/wielding clubs, then smashing the door down.

There seems to be no better example of “language entering into the visual field” then Sign Language. I’m assuming similar experiments of the extended period of blindness in correlation to cognitive processes and understanding have been done on the deaf. Seems like a deep area of study. It’s also interesting that a language that uses gestures, pantomiming, signs, and both body/facial expressions is lacking in the depth that the actual english language can go. To use our earlier example of Batman and the club, there is no clear sign for club. It would be what ASL calls a Classifier. That is, to shape the object out with your hands. So you could of been holding a baseball bat, club, large wrench, led pipe or tree branch for all your viewer really knows. This is where ASL FingerSpelling comes up huge. This is exactly like it sounds, spelling out words with your fingers. So NOW WE HAVE CAPTIONS! Just like in Magritte and McCloud Show and Tell, ASL uses FingerSpelling for all the 7 ways of combining words and images and much more.

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