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Week 2 wrap-up

In what follows, you will find a summary of the most relevant aspects of this week. We also include a couple of recommendations. We hope this might be useful!

Iconicity and arbitrariness. As you have already observed, iconic signs are easier to remember than arbitrary signs. Some examples of iconic signs are HOUSE, TURTLE, DUCK, NIGHT, RAIN. Some examples of arbitrary signs are EXAMPLE, THANKS, PLEASURE, AGAIN. However, it is important to bear in mind that the iconicity of signs is connected with the cultural features of a region. This means that what may be iconic for some people, may not be as iconic for other people living in a far-away region. An example is the sign GERMANY in LSC (and in some other sign languages). The sign is articulated with the fist in front of the forehead, with the index finger straight and pointing upwards. If we are good at history we may know that the German soldiers from the I World War used to wear a particular helmet with a sharp end. In this case we will recognise the sign and we will consider it an iconic sign. In contrast, if we do not know this historical fact, the sign will not be iconic for us. This shows that iconicity is not an inherent feature of signs, but rather a relation of interpretation that we humans make between a sign (or a word) and the object it represents.

The importance of facial and body expression. Facial and upper-body expressions are an important component of signs. This is why we have spent part of the week practicing manual expression, on the one hand, and facial and body expression, on the other. These kinds of expressions are so important that sometimes the same manual sign together with different facial expressions may have different meanings. Such an example has been illustrated in the comments by the differences in the sign HOW-ARE-YOU? and the sign VERY-GOOD. They have the same manual articulation but differ in facial expression: HOW-ARE-YOU is a question and therefore the typical nonmanual markers co-occurring with the sign are brow raised and body lean forward. In contrast, VERY-GOOD is a declarative; the brows do not need to move, and the upper body stays still. Facial and body expressions in nonverbal communication are gestural and they express emotions and feelings. But as we will see in the following weeks some of the facial and body expressions are part of the grammar of sign languages.

Degrees of deafness and types of communication barriers. Communication barriers continue to be part of your activity and this is fantastic! As you have seen, there are various degrees of deafness and the difficulties and communication barriers of each individual may vary according to the degree of deafness. Moreover, depending on whether deafness is prelocutive (acquired before learning a language) or postlocutive (acquired after learning a language) will also affect how sign language is acquired and how visual the world of the person becomes.

Manual alphabets of the world. We appreciate your contributions of the manual alphabets of other sign languages very much. See these two important contributions (many thanks, Brendan and Olga!): Sign languages of different countries and Portuguese Sign Language. An important aspect to bear in mind is that the manual alphabet of a sign language is mainly used to spell proper names of people and places, but not necessarily from a single written language. In LSC, for instance, we can spell names in Catalan but also names in Spanish, which may include the typical Spanish characters (Ñ or CH).

Register of new signs. Although we are only in Week 2 you have already learned a lot of signs. Have you listed them? Even though the writing systems are complex (you have been discussing this issue in the forums), with the current new technologies it is possible to record and save videos easily. We recommend that you start building your own dictionary with the signs you learn. This is a good way to avoid forgetting them. If you want to share your own dictionary, we will be delighted to see your achievements!

Some complementary material. This course has a basic orientation goal and this is why the bibliography references that you will find are not the object of a specific study. Some references are only available in Catalan or Spanish and some do not have free access online. If you are interested in general materials similar to the ones included in some activities, you might want to have a look at these two websites:

Sign Language for everyone. LSC Lab (Laboratori de llengua de signes catalana)

What is sign language? Linguistic Society of America

A last comment about the access to the interactive materials of finger and visual gymnastics: the videos of the app do not have titles, but if you want to identify the signs and the emotions included, please have a look at the titles at this version. We have also seen that there have been a couple of technical mismatches between the video and the drawings. We apologize for this technical problem, but at the same time we are happy that you have spotted them: it shows how much you have learned already! Congratulations!!

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This article is from the free online course:

Introduction to Catalan Sign Language: Speaking with Your Hands and Hearing with Your Eyes

Pompeu Fabra University Barcelona

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