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When discussing spoken English it is common to refer to the sender of a message as the "speaker" and the receiver of the message the "listener."

When discussing American Sign Language conversations it is common to refer to the sender of a message as the "signer" but what term should we use to refer to the receiver of the message?  

Some ideas for you are: viewer, watcher, receiver, recipient, audience, "the other signer," "your conversation partner," "Signer B," "Bob," "signer two" "the second signer," and/or "the person with whom you are conversing."

Of the various options (for a signed version of listener) the option most analogous* to "listen" is probably the word "viewer."
Thus we have:
English: The speaker and the listener.

ASL: The signer and the viewer.

Another option to consider is "interlocutor."  
One of the definitions of "interlocutor" is "a person who takes part in a dialogue or conversation." (Source: Lexico)

For example:

If you sign "HOW-are YOU?" there is a strong chance your interlocutor will respond with "FINE."

If there are two participants in a conversation and they are both signing and viewing each other's signs then both of them are interlocutors.  So "interlocutor" is not the same as "listener."  A listener is a "one-way" recipient of sound (or in this case a sound-based message). 

See: Listen with your eyes:


Of related interest is how you might refer to reading and fingerspelling:

English: The writer and the reader.
ASL: The speller and the reader.
ASL: The fingerspeller and the recipient.

ASL: The sender and the receiver.
No "perfect" answer on this eh?

A lot of people refer to the viewer of a signed or spelled message as the "recipient."

I suppose someone could build a case that a recipient is a receiver of "X."
More like someone "getting" something rather than "viewing" something.

For example, suppose I'm not receptive (heh). Suppose I don't want to receive your message but am "viewing it" anyway.

Ha...of course I'm playing with the fact that "receptive" has multiple meanings whereas to view something tends to be more "eye"-based. (But it can be an opinion too.)

Note: I too use "recipient" quite a bit because recipient ties in well to the fact that for so many years we have referred to the idea of: "receptive fingerspelling" and or "receptive fingerspelling skills."

*Analogous means "comparable in certain respects, typically in a way which makes clearer the nature of the things compared"

"interlocutor." Lexico, Powered by Oxford. Web. 12 Nov 2019 <>.

"analogous." Lexico, Powered by Oxford. Web. 12 Nov 2019 <>.


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