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American Sign Language: Technical Signs Discussion:
Language evolution


Connie: What is the sign for "Archaeology"?

DrVicars: There is an initialized sign used around these parts. It is like the sign for
"INVESTIGATE" but uses an "A" hand. Take the left "b" palm (thumb alongside), hold it out in
front of you casually, then take the thumb of the right "a" hand and brush the thumb down the
center of the left "b" palm a couple of times somewhat as if you were digging into it with your
thumb nail.  But I must warn you that many Deaf won't recognize that sign out of context. It is more of an "invented" sign used by Deaf people in that field, some interpreters, and/or teachers for related purposes.  (Note:  Lately I've seen the old sign for "Australia" being used as a sign for archeology.)

Connie: Thank you, I will remember to be careful when signing that particular word.

DrVicars:  Your question brings up a good discussion topic though. Any communication system that claims to be a language must have a mechanism to enable expansion of the language.  What I mean by that is ASL needs to be able to "add vocabulary" word from time to time.  And it does.  There are a number of factors that influence this process.  Somewhere, somebody, whether it be a native Deaf ASL signer, a teacher,  or a newbie interpreter--someone comes up with a sign for a concept that previously didn't have a sign.  Whether or not that sign will find its way into popular usage and be accepted by the Deaf community only time will tell.  For those of you in planning on graduate school, you might consider doing some research in this area.  Signs that are needed, easy to do, easily recognizable, not offensive, and that have a good vehicle for introduction into the Deaf Community will have the greatest chance of being accepted.  By "vehicle for introduction" I mean someone or some process whereby the sign is made popular.  A charismatic leader in the Deaf Community could do it.  Posting on a popular web site could do it.   Being published in a popular curriculum could.   I recall my good friend Roy Cochran of the Utah Deaf Community championing a certain sign for a particular item.   He single handedly managed to get about 70 Deaf people to change their current sign and adopt the new one.  Whether use of the new sign will continue to spread, again, only time will tell.


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