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Week 4 wrap-up

Week 4 has allowed us to work in the basic parameters of signs, which equals the phonology of spoken languages. We have also reviewed the vocabulary of some daily actions and we have learned how to ask questions with interrogative signs (who, what, when, where, etc.). We hope you are enjoying the course. We are following you closely and we are pleased with the progresses that we see in the videos that you send us through the forums! We offer you a summary of four issues that have been especially important throughout this week.

The importance of the basic components of signs. Handshape, orientation, movement, location and non-manual markers are the components that constitute the signs. Changing one of these parameters can vary the meaning of the sign. Therefore, it is very important to properly articulate the parameters that compose the signs. For example, in LSC BLUE and BATHROOM differ only by movement (BATHROOM does not have movement, while BLUE has a forward movement from the face of the signer). Can you see the change of meaning that produces a simple movement? From “BLUE EYES” to “BATHROOM EYES” there is just a movement!

The mouthing. You have noticed that some signers utter some words, while others do not include the mouthing in their productions. In sign language linguistics we can distinguish between mouthing and mouth gestures, which is a neighbor concept of the first one but still they are not absolute synonymous. Mouthing is part of the sign, and it is optional. It refers to the mouth movement that is part of the sign and has its origins in the pronunciation gesture of the word in spoken language. In the case of LSC at present, mouthing can come both from Spanish and Catalan and that will vary according to the geographical area and the schooling of the signer. An example in LSC would be when the sign SYSTEM is accompanied by the pronunciation of the word “architecture” or “system” or “method”. And it is not mandatory. On the other hand, there are mouth gestures, which are the gestures that we make with the lips and/or the tongue and have no relation with spoken language. We can found it in LSC signs such as THERE-IS, KISS, CHEW, INDISPENSABLE, etc. Some of them are mandatory and some of them are optional. You can find more information about this component in the Grammar of the Catalan Sign Language.

Terminological variation. Sign languages, like spoken languages, are subject to variation (geographical, temporal, social, etc.). In the case of LSC, the variation is also related to the standardization process that the language follows. Throughout the course, we have referred to the Grammar of the Catalan Sign Language because it is the most complete descriptive instrument that has the LSC at present, and moreover it is a necessary reference point for standardization. Like other sign languages in the world, LSC is not fully codified and therefore instruments that describe it are necessary. In this context it is perfectly normal to have variation and oscillation within the sign-concept relationship. Finding an exact translation for signs is sometimes difficult because it often depends on the context in which the sign is performed. SAD/DISAPPOINTED is performed in front of the signer’s torso (as Santi does in the step 4.3) and SAD is performed in front of the signer’s face (as Santi did in the exercises of week 2). However, these are two concepts that share the same semantic field, “sadness”, and therefore they share a downward movement and a marked facial expression. Moreover, as in spoken languages, synonymy also exists in sign languages and the terminological precision is not always maintained. This means that depending on the context in which we find the sign, the translation may vary.

The importance of facial expression. As you have mentioned in the forums, facial expression is very important. It is crucial to distinguish between the facial expression that accompanies the lexicon sign and the facial expression that contributes to the construction of sentences and that also brings more meaning to the proposition. In sign language linguistics we can distinguish several types of facial expression and we see some of them in this course:

  • The facial expression that is part of the basic components of the sign.

  • The facial expression that is part of the syntax of the sentence for performing interrogative sentences. This facial expression always accompanies the interrogative signs. In week 5, we will see that interrogative sentences can also be expressed only with facial expression and without the manual sign (How do I ask a content question without an interrogative sign?).

  • The facial expression that marks the plural, that we will be see during week 6 (How to express plural in Catalan Sign Language).

Your videos about daily actions. We love your videos in which you explain what you do during a day. We never get tired of giving likes to them! Delfina sent you a video in which she explains what she does during a week. Have you seen it already? We recommend it! In this video you will find the signs of almost every day of the week. Do you recognize them? Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. For the weekend, Saturday and Sunday, we recommend you to watch this other answer. Do you think that the signs of the days of the week are arbitrary or motivated? Remember that iconicity is not an inherent feature of the signs, but a relationship of interpretation that we humans do between a sign (or word) and the object they represent.

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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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