Multimedia Dictionary and Synthesis of Sign Language
Franc Solina (University of Ljubljana, Slovenia), Slavko Krapez (University of Ljubljana, Slovenia), Ales Jaklic (University of Ljubljana, Slovenia) and Vito Komac (Zoom Promotion, Slovenia)
Copyright: © 2001
Deaf people, as a marginal community, may have severe problems in communicating with hearing people. Usually, they have a lot of problems even with such—for hearing people—simple tasks as understanding the written language. However, deaf people are very skilled in using a sign language, which is their native language. A sign language is a set of signs or hand gestures. A gesture in a sign language equals a word in a written language. Similarly, a sentence in a written language equals a sequence of gestures in a sign language. In the distant past deaf people were discriminated and believed to be incapable of learning and thinking independently. Only after the year 1500 were the first attempts made to educate deaf children. An important breakthrough was the realization that hearing is not a prerequisite for understanding ideas. One of the most important early educators of the deaf and the first promoter of sign language was Charles Michel De L’Epée (1712-1789) in France. He founded the fist public school for deaf people. His teachings about sign language quickly spread all over the world. Like spoken languages, different sign languages and dialects evolved around the world. According to the National Association of the Deaf, the American Sign Language (ASL) is the third most frequently used language in the United States, after English and Spanish. ASL has more than 4,400 distinct signs. The Slovenian sign language (SSL), which is used in Slovenia and also serves as a case study sign language in this chapter, contains approximately 4,000 different gestures for common words. Signs require one or both hands for signing. Facial expressions which accompany signing are also important since they can modify the basic meaning of a hand gesture. To communicate proper nouns and obscure words, sign languages employ finger spelling. Since the majority of signing is with full words, signed conversation can proceed with the same pace as spoken conversation.