Rethinking the Sign for Therapy

Another Vlog from ASC: Sharon Duchesneau shares her perspective on the potential negative implications of the ASL sign for “therapy” or “counseling”. ASC would like to know your thoughts on an alternative sign, borrowed from other countries.

To cite:

Duchesneau, S. (2006, September 29). Rethinking the Sign for Therapy. ASC on the Couch. Retrieved September 29, 2006, from http://www.ascdeaf.com/blog/?p=232

  1. Carl Schroeder September 29, 2006

    I agree! ASL does change over time, and it is very healthy to make them. All parts of signs (hand shapes, palm orientations, signing locations, non-manual expressions, modifier movements, embedded classifiers, etc) do generate linguistic/cultural information. These two examples of signs that you gave for counseling and therapy are very interesting and very old! In the past (I’m an old man alright), counselors, therapists as well as those other people with authorities such as teachers, professors, supervisors, and administrators were often seen across a desk or table. In ASL, the sign COUNSELING consists an embedded classifier that is derived from the sign TABLE. Today as professor, I always tried to avoid being seen across my desk. I would offer to walk around campus or move myself out of the desk so I could either sit or stand with my student. As for the sign THERAPY, the embedded classifier is derived from the sign HELP as you pointed out in your v-log. I’m glad you initiated such dialogues about the language and culture we know the best. Go for this new sign for counseling and therapy that you presented. How about group counseling? Circular instead of alternative movements? Change is inevitable!

  2. Rene Visco September 29, 2006

    I second that! I prefer two hands sign over one hand sign for “counseling”. However, I think there should be abetter sign for “therapy”.

  3. Charles Harper September 29, 2006

    I seconded with both comments above about your point. Some signs weren’t prefect due to impact of pathologists, educators and other professionals in the past, who was more likely a hearing person developing these signs. For example, how we sign REVIEW, STRATEGY, SYSTEM, GRASS, CAR, TRUCK and many other examples. Therapy and counseling are two of these examples. I like the idea of using two-way of exchanging. I agree with Rene that there should be something better sign for therapy, probably signing like discussing two-way or does anybody have greater idea?

  4. Katherine September 29, 2006

    I absolutely concur with you about the signs. The sign you indicated from the other country appears empowering-like as opposed to the old signs.

    I am not even sure how to make of it when deriving signs from other country for these words and claiming them as our own. Shouldn’t there be a group of deaf people in your profession from all over United States or during mental health conferences to get together to brainstorm and decide on a sign for each?

  5. raychelle September 29, 2006

    English borrows words from other languages all the time. Burrito, pasta, sushi, boomerang, avocado, etc. Why can’t ASL borrow from other sign languages? When I lived in Italy, I loved many of their signs for “theory”, “concept”, “philosophy”, “understand”, “idea” – all very visual and related to the head (thinking) and not initialized at all, in Italian nor in English.

    I love the sign you suggest for counseling/therapy. Something we should think about – how do we differ between counselor, counsel, counseling, therapy, therapist, etc?

    I would assume if it was a person working as a counselor or as a therapist, a “er” sign would be added at the end (like teach-er, play-er, work-er). If I wanted to sign “She’s a good counselor”. How would this be done? 2 quick out/in movement then -er (like a noun). If I wanted to sign, “I had a good counseling session”. The sign would be larger, slower and with additional out/in movement (like a verb). This is fun! Go for it! I’m in.

  6. Carl Schroeder September 29, 2006


    Maybe I can help you understand how any language can borrow terms from another. In the court, attorneys often use latin phrases to point out litigations. There are some restaurants across the nation that read something like Thai cuisine, Vietnamese BBQ, etc. ASL can borrow some signs from another sign language if they are within context.

    I have some problems with your suggestion that there be some kind of conference where signs can be decided. France did set up an official French language committee several centuries ago and it experienced a downgrade decline of intellectual life and international influence. The English language took over and it finds its way into America life. Our founding fathers changed from the French version of “life, libertry and property” to our version: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I don’t wish this to happen to ASL because ASL is our pursuit of happiness.

    Today, for example, these Republicans get me worried about making English the official language of the United States, which could create some funnies such as language police or, even worse, language committee.

    These are just my thoughts. Carl

  7. Michael September 30, 2006

    Like the comments above I agree with Sharon Duchesneau’s suggestion
    and When I first saw that sign I feel connected immediately as I never feel comfortable use one way like american signs for therapy even though I do use that sign. Also like Carl said ASL is changing over time… I totally seconded the new sign for therapy or counseling.

  8. Anne Marie September 30, 2006
  9. joseph rainmound September 30, 2006

    Absolutely beautiful vlog, Sharon. I’m planning to go get my MSW so I can move into counselling. I get a lot out of the relationship I have with my clients. Their successes are so important to them – and to me. I don’t like to view my role as controlling or powerful. Rather, I’m their “teammate” at the minute, and I have a lot of skills I can teach them… if that makes sense… Anyway, thank you for sharing your thoughts this way. Possibly the best vlog I’ve seen to date.

  10. Aidan Mack September 30, 2006

    Ann Marie,

    I am trying to understand what you mean about American Sign Language that was developed from English. Can you please expand it? The reason I asked you because I learned that American Sign Language was originally developed from French and bought to America combine homemade signs from America.


    I like your idea about signing in order to feel as a team but I am concerned about sign as a noun as Ann Marie said in V-blog and a role of therapy. Clients don’t guide or work with therapists or therapists will get free sessions from clients and clients have to pay for therapy sessions. It is not sound right. I strongly believe that as clients, therapists are their guiders to help them to see issues better. Of course, therapists would learn from them like other professions.

    My apology if my English writing sounds awkward. I am working on to become a better English writer. Oh, Good example, my English tutor (she is an Italian interpreter/linguistic) learns a lot from me about Deaf community and ASL and I learn a lot from her about writing in English. But she still gets paid as an English tutor and I don’t get pay for educating her about Deaf community and ASL.



  11. ToddE September 30, 2006

    Anne Marie raises a good point about trying to ‘borrow’ vocabulary from other sign languages and modifying them for use in ASL. What’s wrong with the current ASL sign for counsel/counselor as a noun, and using the new one for its verb form?

  12. ToddE September 30, 2006

    Joeseph Rainmound;

    First of all, I’m glad to see more Deaf people pursuing MSW degrees and considering social worker professions. However, here’s some unsolicited advice; (And forgive me for going OT for a moment, though!)

    Approach the MSW degree and the social worker field as one where you can do all the requirements of the job serving regular clientele, which may include ordinary hearing people. I know of one person who has earned a MSW locally, thinking she will serve Deaf clients. This person still has not found a job as a social worker. There is a DHH program at Jackson Memorial Hospital (www.um-jmh.org), and it is already fully staffed.

    Don’t make the same mistake I did; I entered the law profession thinking I would serve Deaf clients, and have found zero job opportunities along those lines in my locale. As a result, I have to look for jobs that entail serving the general public and will have to rely on accommodations. So far, it appears I may have to start my own practice as the job market isn’t promising.

    Best wishes for you on your MSW studies!

  13. Katherine September 30, 2006

    Carl and Raychelle:

    I will not dispute with you at all on what you are saying. I’m
    aware of spoken languages borrowing other languages, thus with ASL and signed languages, it works the same way.

    I hope that we will not forget to give credence of the sign(s) to the country(ies)we derive from later down the road. The last thing we want is for us to become insensitive to other languages, signed languages in particular, as those English speakers in America have of many other spoken languages.

    Raychelle — I agree with you how some other countries are better with non-initalized signs and these usually express context and meaning.

    Carl — As for the conference or some kind of committee, I mean those with expertise in ASL and the field are to meet, not just anyone.

    Not to fret, I am on your side! 🙂

  14. Carl Schroeder September 30, 2006

    Anne Marie presented some outstanding yet provoking thoughts about the verb-noun derivations in ASL: EAT-FOOD, SIT-CHAIR, WRITE-WRITING, READ-READING, FLY-AIRPLANE, etc. ASL is simply wonderful because it can adapt whatever sign is imported. As for the sign COUNSELING that Sharon showed, it can find its way into the very-noun pair with a verb sign using one movement as in EAT, SIT, WRITE, etc., and a noun sign using dual movement as in FOOD, CHAIR, WRITING, etc. I think ASL would allow this COUNSEL=COUNSELING derivation. COUNSELOR can entertain the same rule that the verb-AGENT classifier signs such as READER, WRITER AND DRIVER signs. COUNSEL-AGENT classifier is in ASL meaning counselor. Now I’m beginning to wonder about the signs ADVICE, ADVISOR, ADVISE. What a ripple effect! This is just wonderful! Writing about ASL is my forte.

  15. Brian September 30, 2006

    Sharon, great topic for discussion! As an art therapist, I often find the sign “therapy/therapist” to be cumbersome. Even the sign “social work” is done in the same manner as “help” and “therapy.” I think the signs “therapy/counseling” do reveal an imbalance of power, with the therapist having more power than the patient/client.

    Some therapists (not all) practice a clinical model that assumes the patient has a problem, and the problem needs to be fixed so that the patient can move on with his/her life. This implies the therapist knows more, knows better, and has something to contribute to the patient, while the patient’s main contribution is payment for therapy services.

    The switch from “therapy/counseling” to “two-way back and forth” is honorable and appropriate only if it matches the therapeutic approach used by the therapist for that particular session in that particular moment. Once the therapist diverges from that empowerment philosophy, it becomes no longer appropriate to use the “two-way” sign.

    My concern is that some therapists who stick to a clinical model that reinforces the power imbalance will co-opt the new “two-way” sign, and subsequently claim they are empowering the client, when in fact they are reinforcing the power dynamic of “I know more, I diagnose you, I decide your treatment goals, I have power over when you are released from my care.” Using the new sign to (falsely) label what is a power imbalance can make it harder for us to identify the power imbalance inherent in the medical/clinical system.

    In my understanding, the sign “two-way” fits the peer model of counseling more appropriately than most clinical models.

    Sharon, I’m glad you brought this up! It’s neat how you turn to other cultures and communities outside the US for inspiration and ideas.. thank you for reinforcing this global exchange. You and Candace really make ACS one of the TOP TOP (vb)logs out there!



  16. Katherine September 30, 2006

    Carl and Raychelle:

    No doubt that I am on your side about instances of one language borrowing from the other and that it can happen with ASL with other signed languages of the world. As long as we are mindful where some signs originated from, I’ll feel better about it. The last thing we want is for some people to become insensitive to other languages, signed languages in particular.


    Would it make a difference if a conference or a committee were made up of people who are expertise in ASL and the mental health field along with the feedback from the public? Shouldn’t we give our Deaf community the opportunity to explore first? If no good sign can be produced, we can borrow sign(s) from other country(ies) and put it in writing to keep track of its origins in honor of other country(ries). I agree that ASL, for our country, is our pursuit of happiness, indeed! I can’t imagine what life is without its existence.

    By the way, I agree that it’s a mistake for anyone to try to enforce English as the official language of our country. Whether or not they like it, other languages are as equally important and bilingual education does far more good than harm when it is equipped with proper language modelling by those with highest skills.


    I think it is fabulous about the non-initalized signs in Italy. What I find to be bothersome is the initalized signs some people, in our country, make a habit of which express little or no conceptual meaning or value. For example, breakfast, lunch and dinner on chin with initalized sign. Out of respect for the language, I sign “EAT” and “MORNING” for breakfast, “EAT” and “AFTERNOON” for lunch and “EAT” and “EVENING” for dinner. I remember the sign my late Deaf grandparents and their friends used for bathroom. They would rub their stomach as to indicate the sign for bathroom. Their generation, ASL seems to be less influenced by English than the later generations — I suspect to be the result of the emergence of artifical Manually Coded English systems. All the more reason for us to protect our language, ASL, from being impoverished and for others to do same with their own language.

    Everyday I ask myself how can I respect my language more and am receptive to that. Even if when people asked me questions I’m not sure of, I tell them I’ll have to get back to them after discussing with certain people. I cringe when I see some people acting like they know it all and give them answers or create signs.


    You brought up a few interesting points on your ASL vlog that definitely need to be analyzed further. Thanks for doing that and it is really important.

  17. raychelle September 30, 2006

    I’m enjoying this discussion. I disagree – I believe there is a noun version of the sign Sharon proposed. I just need to learn how to insert a vlog of myself so I can demonstrate!

    Like I said earlier, if I wanted to sign “She’s a good counselor”: This would be done with 2 quick/short/frozen out/in movement then -er (like a noun, e.g. BICYCLIST).

    If I wanted to sign, “I had a good counseling session”. The sign would be larger, slower and with additional out/in movement (like a verb, say the same sign BICYCLE, but as in BICYCLING-UP-HILL ).


    Good point. Let me play the devil’s advocate here. Do we know the origins of all our English words? I doubt it. It’s amazing how much is borrowed! Why should it be any different with borrowing among sign languages? Of course I’d never want to be insensitive, but if my children’s children use the new sign Sharon proposed and didn’t know that it was originally borrowed, how are they supposed to know any different? I bet most people don’t know we borrowed those words from the French:

    attorney, bailiff, chancellor, chattel, country, court, crime, defendent, evidence, government, jail, judge, jury, larceny, noble, parliament, plaintiff, plea, prison, revenue, state, tax, verdict (http://www.ruf.rice.edu/~kemmer/Words/loanwords.html)

    Of course, this historical evolution of signs would be a great opportunity for K-12 ASL classes, and by studying our own language in school, we can learn the origins of signs – Fun stuff!

    I hope you wont think of my children’s children as insensitive, just maybe, ignorant? 🙂

  18. Katherine September 30, 2006


    Just because we do not know the origins of all our English words, it doesn’t mean we can’t raise the bar and do that for ASL! English is a language the majority takes for granted.

    On a serious note, the deaf population all over the world is a unique one for it is a close knitted community as well as signed languages banding us together. With the former in mind, there will be times when the origins are being brought up from time to time besides K-12 and studying our own language in school. For example, if a British Deaf person noticed an American Deaf person using a sign that originated from BSL, s/he is bound to mention it and it may lead to a discussion. If we think about it, it’s unavoidable and that’s the beauty of the Deaf community. And, of course, hopefully the origin of signs will be documented just in case!

    Nah on your children’s children being insensitive or ignorant. I know you’ll do a good job making your children aware and the ripple of effect will do the wonder! 🙂 Look forward to your vlog!

  19. Anne Marie September 30, 2006

    See my following comment in ASL, click on “more about changes in sign” hyperlink above the aslvlog if it is the old one. I have been experimenting with video for better quality and also redid little webpage. I hope downloading won’t take that long because better video quality require more data size.


    (5 min in length)


    Anne Marie

  20. Carl Schroeder September 30, 2006

    I’ve never perceived you this way. We the linguists often joke each other that we agree to disagree. After all, we are meaning makers. As for children, the sense of sight is powerful. Through their eyes, they take in ASL and make the world around them meaningful part of their memory. ASL is the light of their language and culture. I, for one, found this type of discussion to be outstanding, and you are very important to all of us. Mahalo (in Hawai’ian meaning thanks with love/care)….

  21. joseph rainmound October 1, 2006

    ToddE –

    Thanks, I already work in social services and case management with Deaf people… and hearing people. We’re desperate for Deaf people with MSW’s. We’ve been advertising for months. Unfortunately I AM Deaf – it’s tough working with the hard-of-signing… but then I seriously do believe it when I say the Deaf nation has many tribes so I work with as many people as I can. I already have an MSc in Deaf Studies – the MSW is more for billing purposes and for Americans (British degree here.)

    To the rest of you –

    ASL came from LSF. It’s stupid to worry about “borrowing” signs from other signed languages. Why not? Taxi is a word which exists in many languages! I personally like the BSL for THERAPY, WORLD, PEOPLE, and these words creep into my signing every day. Why not? Hearing people sometimes slip into French to be classy!

  22. Katherine October 1, 2006

    AnneMarie or any other linguists who can answer:

    I have a question I would like to ask. Are you saying that we should accept the creation of initalized signs that were done by hearing people back then who know nothing about and frown upon ASL. Remember all those years during the Manually Coded English era ASL wasn’t embraced in school? So, it got spilled out from school to community. These have been passed down to some deaf people. And some deaf people themselves create new initalized signs. I choose to avoid them if there is ASL sign in mind.

    I often emphasize people, often hearing people, to look at the context of the whole thing, not individual word to grasp the meaning. They try to differeniate each sign to make it easier for them. In my opinion, that’s unnatural and it does injustice to ASL. In English, you need to understand the whole context before you’re able to figure out.

    It’s been a long time that I’ve forgotten as I used to work as a research assistant at few places. SVO is how we follow with the English order right? ASL order would be object first and what’s the rest? I’ve noticed how some people followed SVO for English in ASL. It’s frightening.

    I might be wrong, but I feel very strongly about this. I have no problem with ASL borrowing other signed language. My greatest concern is for ASL to become downgraded by English and its associations.

  23. ToddE October 1, 2006

    Anne Marie @ #19;

    Like you, I have been toying the idea of having a specialized ASL dictionary of sorts, for the legal profession. This way, lawyers serving Deaf people, Deaf clients, and Legal ASL Interpreters can use it as a resource.

    This specialized dictionary would be modelled after the ‘Wiktionary‘ free dictionary concept. It should be held online and the video clips should be freely accessible.

    However, as you can imagine, it would be an enormous undertaking, so I’m still ‘thinking’ about it. I really haven’t put anything out concrete just yet. I’d hate to start a project like that only to abandon it later when life takes yet another unplanned turn.

    Still, it would be nice if the counseling profession has a similiar ASL dictionary for their profession, to look up, emulate, and use freely. It’s great to see more vlogs out there, and hopefully video clips showing specialized ASL vocabulary can’t be too far behind!

    And for the linguists among you, do you think ASL is already the ‘lingua franca’ of the worldwide Deaf population? Isn’t it such a bad thing, after all? That said, ASL is continually evolving and borrowing as time marches on, under a wide continuum of influencing factors, and it’s nice to see it unfold in this vlog about the word, ‘counseling’.

  24. Cheryl October 1, 2006

    Wow! That’s great people from different areas are having this dialogue! Just last week in class we were discussing about the changes in ASL and English and then this comes up, what a timing! Will definitely pass it on to my classmates! Thanks for bringing up a lively topic for lively discussions! 🙂

  25. Anne Marie October 1, 2006


    I created two aslvlog, one about initialized signs and svo. The second one is about to boost our ASL language on vlogs.

    Cheers Anne Marie

  26. ToddE October 1, 2006

    Anne Marie-

    Just a short message to show appreciation for the recent vlog’s you’ve made on the subject. It was great work!

    I confess to never really having given thought to the idea of a ‘thesarus’ for the ASL language and you really opened my eyes. Maybe it’s because I’m so used to seeing ASL dictionaries all the time being marketed to new sign learners. 🙂

    Will look forward to watching more ASL-based vlog’s!

  27. raychelle October 1, 2006

    My very first ASL vlog. Hope it works!!!


  28. Katherine October 1, 2006

    Great ASL vlog, Raychelle! I do appreciate what you have shared, in which I am in complete agreement with. Thank you for recognizing the importance of not adopting the American attitude towards other countries/signed languages as well as preserving our signed language in our country..

    I will resist from the influence of Manually Coded English systems and most of initalized signs. That, to me is a form of audism! 🙂 May ASL prosper and its originality preserved!

  29. Anne Marie October 1, 2006


    My iWeb for some reason refuses to publish my revision anymore so my aslvlog will come later when it’s fixed.

    Hey I LOOOOOOVE these Italian signs and do not see why we can move on to enrich our ASL language. I think explicit meaning and easy production are central to deciding whether to adopt new signs.

    I doubt originality can be preserved, some can be, some will just advance to what we find to be better.

    One thing, I feel self conscious thinking that my constant presence on blogsite seems an indication of my being a loner. I wish to clear it out, I sit almost all day everyday working on my doctoral and ASL assessment works at home and lab at the university. Being on the intellectual wave with deaf blogs and now exciting vlogs is indeed refreshing for me..and also very important for me as a deaf scholar to stay in touch with folks and see what they have in mind. This way I can streamline collectivism into my work that should serve us all well.

    Hands waving! Anne Marie

  30. DE October 1, 2006


    Yeah- what a great vlog! Complete agreement here as well.


    Thank you for doing this vlog. I like the proposed sign, because it STILL follows ASL (well, general Signed Languages) rules.

  31. Laura Dreany October 2, 2006

    Good to see you Sharon!!! Yes I definitely like that sign. Especially being in the addictions field, it does take two to help a person along in relearning life in a sober way.

  32. Katherine October 2, 2006

    Regarding whether or not originality of ASL can be preserved,
    I feel it is our job to aim for most to be preserved, unless
    something better comes up. Some have been lost or misplaced due to oppression during the MCEs era. No question that some signs do change as it evolves over time as long as it is within realm.

    The English language, like many other spoken languages by their people, had plenty of opportunity to evolve by native English speakers naturally. They also have established grammar, structure, rules that we are to follow. ASL has been around for decades outside academia, but linguistically wise, it wasn’t studied until recently. We need to take that in mind.

    We need to resist the artificality that can harm the beauty and image of ASL. In light of understanding how some languages influence one another, why should we allow the influence of Manually Coded English systems when they’re not considered a language in the first place? Indeed, everyone is welcome to the language of ASL, but we have to take the responsibility to nurture our signed language and that in itself will promote its continued and healthy growth in the right direction.

    As far as SVO goes, I’m disturbed by the information AnneMarie shared about how 2/3 of students does SVO in ASL. I wonder if it’s time for ASL instructors to be firm on the grammar, rules, structure of ASL? While ASL is still relatively new, we need to take advantage of it and educate students, teachers and the likes. What I found to be helpful is show some hearing people how to translate from English to ASL gloss before trying to sign first. I show a few of them to give them the feel/idea how to do it. Once they internalize it, then they won’t struggle and think in English. It’ll make it easier for them to add Non Manual Signals to replace English mouthing and on it goes.

  33. floridagirl October 2, 2006

    I am trilingual- Spanish, English and ASL. Interpreters and I are still frustrated about finding a way of matching ASL concepts and technology vocabulary in the class. In fact, I sign ASL fluently and even the interpreters are skill at signing ASL.

    20 years ago, I visited my country, and I met some deaf Hispanics who used much new SSL (Spanish sign language), changing from the old SSL in the past to the future. Those had already moved on forward. I will never forget about my friend who made the comment- new SSL is perfectly conceived to match every month that tends to be traditionally celebrated in the culture of my country. It caused me to feel so good and lifted inside my spirit.

  34. floridagirl October 2, 2006

    (deaf Hispanics who used many new SSL)

  35. Anne Marie October 3, 2006

    I’ll do my best to explain how ASL syntax work succiently below. In fact, it is not really black and white nor can be simply described as “SVO”. I was going to do aslvlog but I look too terrible now. Also, I think it probably easier to look at a pretty mathematic subject in writing than keeping on scaling back playback on video.

    Topic comment (known as “noun” or “subject”) is frequently head first marked in our ASL sentences with use of raised eye brows, chin rise, and nod head.

    ____(raised eye brows)
    __________raised eyebrows and chin rise
    ___________________________raised eyebrows and head nod

    About SVO order, there is a possiblity of SVO or SOV or OSV structures in ASL. If VO, it is obvious “pronoun drop” for example TELL ME, SEE ME.. and is more rare.

    SVO, SOV, and OSV structures end up looking like SVO of because elevated facial expressions in the beginning are required for all declarative sentence types, simple to complex ones. Although SVO is common, it does not have to do with influence by English.

    For SOV and OSV structures, a signer would either choose to mention which person or object to mention first indicated by verb agreement. Importantly, facial expression for topicalization is same for SO or OS or S or O respectively.

    Recent findings in my research of about 4 years in ASL development lab show that elevated facial expression for topicalization serves discourse marking, that is to show when a new information is introduced and once the topic continues, the facial expression recedes, becoming more subtle or almost none until a new information is added on or when topic shifts. This “facial intonation” similar as voice intonation in all other languages, from being elevated known as stresses to less stressed aids with following the newness to oldness in information. Without this, we will be clueless and the signer/speaker would appear/sound “run on.”

    So in the nutshell, sentence structures are very much tied to anchoring information and showing saliency, that is what is most relevant to least relevant than should if ASL sentences have been mangled by external influences like SEE etc. It is so highly governed that either a signer is getting it or we fall asleep as this signer goes below 2.0 out of 5.0 of ASL proficency scale. It is more of sign choices where we need to pay more attention to. (I have been an ASL assessor/researcher for about 10 years total at full time).

    Hope it clarifies. This took me years and syntax courses are bloodiest ones. Right now I no longer look at ASL sentence structures like a tree or diagram anymore. It is too black and white. More linguists and myself are interested in cognitive based theories for speculating syntax structures. Sentence structures are rather dominated by functional and contextual meanings, that is how much speakers know about topic and which situation they are in that has great influence on sentence structures than whether they are “SVO or OSV or SOV”. So do not fret! ;^) Hey let’s have some cappuccino.

    Anne Marie

  36. Betty Colonomos October 3, 2006

    This discussion and VLog comments are so great to have. I just want to comment on two issues: Lingua Franca and ASL Syntax.

    Hearing people tried to develop an international language called Esperanto. It never got beyond a small group of die-hards. Why do Deaf people feel the need to do this? Gestuno was developed by American and European signers and therefore was not understandable or acceptable to Deaf people from Asia, South America and Africa where the cultural differences are greater; some handshapes are offensive, initialized signs require a knowledge of English to decode. Americans are well known in the world as monolinguals who think Engish is superior and try to impose it on other countries because we are wealthy and powerful. I hope Deaf Americans won’t make that same mistake; I think it would be very enriching for the culture to have exposure to bilingual and multilingual signers.

    On the syntax issue I am a little hesitant to state my views because they may be seen as “hearing oppression”. I will try my best to get the ideas across without offending anyone. I specialized in syntax when I did my doctoral work in Linguistics. I made strong arguments that ASL syntax was flexible but primarily it is a verb-final language. I applied various tests of verb-final languages and found that ASL fit those criteria most closely. I did discover that SVO appears almost always in embedded clauses like conditionals, rhetoricals and relative clauses.

    Now here is the sticky part. If a linguist wanted to study a language they did not know, would they collect data from monolingual speakers or bilinguals? I think it is widely accepted practice to analyze data from speakers who are not “contaminated” by another languages. The research I see in the field of ASL Linguistics is usually based on Deaf native ASL signers who are also very bilingual and competent in English. This is not a criticism. Many, if not most, highly-educated, professional Deaf people blend English and ASL in their discourse. That is normal for bilinguals to do. My problem is using this type of signing as the model to use for research in ASL. Monolingual ASL users (or minimally bilingual ASL users) do not use SVO as the primary syntactic form. If we do not attach stigma to these ASL users (not educated, grassroots, not smart, etc.) then why can’t we do research on monolinguals so that we know what ASL alone is, and so that we can see and describe what the impact of blending ASL and English is on bilingual signers.

    Anne Marie is a brilliant woman with much insight and deep cultural roots in the Deaf Community. If she would transcribe her own VLogs, she would see the use of prepositions and other Enlgish grammatical features in her discourse. Please understand that what I saw from Anne Marie is what I see from most professional educated Deaf people. It is not about her. It seems inevitable that the more one studies a discipline through English, the more English will influence one’s signing.

    I consider Ann Marie a colleague and friend who I respect a lot and I believe she can consider my comments objectively and understand that I am publicly stating what has been said behind the scenes for many years. It appears that this is an appropriate time to discuss this openly as it relates to this topic.

    This feels familiar to me – taking risks. I hope I won’t be sorry.

  37. Anne Marie October 3, 2006

    Hey Bette!! A quick response. I am perfectly fine with your discussion. I just captured a video of myself in response to some points you raised. I will post it later when I have time to compress the video. (((hugs you Bette))) my dear, I appreciate your openess.

    Anne Marie

  38. Anne Marie October 3, 2006
  39. Betty Colonomos October 4, 2006

    Thanks so much Anne Marie for being so open to my comments.

    I’d like to talk about sentences using locatives, directional verbs, and spatial reference. In these cases you may see more verb final structures (e.g.CALIFORNIA, ME FLY-TO (speakers left) as opposed to ME FLY-TO (speaker left) CALIFORNIA). Signing FLY-TO from the speaker to some yet unknown place seems to conflict with the spatial features of ASL. If CALIFORNIA is signed first, then the verb FLY-TO-left would then grammatically agree with the object. Another example using a stative verb: English sentence is “I am against the war in Iraq.” Two signed sentences: 1) ME AGAINST/OPPOSE WAR I-R-A-Q, 2) WAR I-R-A-Q, ME AGAINST/OPPOSE

    What do you think? Do you have any video data of these “monolingual” ASL users that have been/could be transcribed?

    I miss the stimulating discussions, obviously 🙂

  40. floridagirl October 4, 2006

    Katherine said, I sign “EAT” and “MORNING” for breakfast, “EAT” and “AFTERNOON” for lunch and “EAT” and “EVENING” for dinner.

    I never use those sign language sentences, and I have to admit that I mostly time sign “eat breakfast”, “eat lunch” and “eat dinner”. It is my choice when I have wanted to use sign language.


    I am not a teacher. It sounds good to me that you have an idea your ASL style “ME AGAINST/OPPOSE WAR I-R-A-Q.” Additionally, my perspective monolingual ASL, that looks like SPE, will make it possible to travel and communicate into English tangible writing. I reckon that if deaf children may have a good the habit of writing, reading and proofreading grammar.

    It is as a profession that Dr. Steve Nover bases on ASL/English in New Mexico until I found his website has information- “Dr. Nover personally said that Learning ASL first does not insure better English skills”.

    In America, I was learning SEE at the age of 11 as a foreign child, and I thought SEE was almost exactly similar to English Second Language. I picked up English words fast from SEE was not an obstacle me to give me a challenge to learn new language.

    I constantly read any book and newspaper that helps me to increase my writing skill. I tell you honestly that I already forgot some language and some SSL, but I still remember in my brain Spanish language.

    Colombians, El Salvadorans, Guatemalans, Peruvians, and so many others from various Spanish speaking countries each have their own way of speaking Spanish and didn’t agree with the Spanish class in America. Spanish isn’t monolingual in different words. I am very tired of hypocrites conversing in Spanish language.

    Don’t respond to me because I am afraid of being ignorant. I go now

  41. Susan Hajiani October 6, 2006

    Thanks to Sharon for initiating this very interesting discussion. As a clinical therapist, I feel that the success of the therapy really is in the hands of the consumer. It is the therapist’s job to empower the consumer to find their own way to success. For example, the dialectical behavior therapy model employs many techniques and choices for the consumer to use in making positive life changes. I think the word therapy in English is a bit deeper than counseling but is not really accurate for what goes on in effective therapy.

  42. Natasha K October 6, 2006

    Like many others have already said – ASL is a language that evolves over time. I think this is an EXCELLENT alternative to the sign for “therapy.” I like so much that it emphasizes the back-and-forth connection between the therapist and the client. Let’s spread the word! smile

  43. Toby Welch March 12, 2007

    Yeah, why not. If everyone agrees with that sign, then go for it. ASL is easy to change. Thanks for sharing with us!

  44. Carrie March 19, 2007

    Well, It is hard to say. The other countries may sign like that as gestures. Most other countries haven’t had their own official sign country sign language for each word. I am fluently in German Sign Language. German Sign language doesn’t only sign that as one word, Counselor. They use it in many different reasons therefore; they mostly relied on lip- reading to know which definitions it meant.

    The ASL for Counselor has its reason to sign like that because of connections with the sign of a word, Advice. It gives more definitions for Counselor base on that ASL sign.

    Like i say, its hard to say if we should just throw it as it was already connected to the ASL. Yes that two hand shows more of gestures of how to communicate instead of the word as counselor.

  45. Mallory Malzkuhn April 5, 2007

    My psychology professor gave me this link and after watching it, I just realized how much ASL signs could impact on us… they can send different kinds of vibe…I think it’s really great that you are trying to change the sign of counseling as an one-way thing into a two-way relationship…I don’t know if we Deaf people would be able to just change the sign of counseling overnight but it’s nice to know that there are people who are trying to think of signs that show more compassion.

  46. Canela April 8, 2007

    My psychology teacher encourged me make a comment from your opinion.i am very interested about this idea. i didn’t realize about that.. why not?! i think it is best two hands sign for “CONUSELOR”. Thanks for sharing with us.

  47. Tourlova April 8, 2007

    Very interesting comment. First of all, my psychology professor referred to me related to class about this blog. I agree with one thing that we dont need counselling or therapy due being deafness because we won’t learn from it like the hearing people have been used to. We as deaf people, we prefer to chat and getting feedbacks without counselling or therapy like what that lady sharon said. I like ASL better than ESL because when it comes to deaf people, its quick to use ASL like fireman like you noticed that, because we will know the expression of the faces if we can identity male or female.

  48. Josef Pfaff April 8, 2007

    that was interesting.

  49. Melissa Miller April 12, 2007

    ahh, i get the point. but i feel that “new” sign will make us more confusing because it is very general. it can mean many things and i feel that our sign for counseling is direct- once we see that sign, we automatically know what it means. while the new sign– we can interpret it in many different meanings. not that im against this but i just find it interesting how people want to change our language- bottom line: counselors and therapists do help us, so why do we need to emphasize two-way relationship? 🙂

  50. Brittany Williams April 12, 2007

    Interesting point there.
    thanks for sharing =)

  51. Roy Lotz April 15, 2007

    It is really true about the ASL and English, I am glad that I have been going through both language and understand the difference. There are alot of ASL which don’t exist in English but we still understand what it means, even though there are no word for it but still have concept for it.

    I do think we should get rid of counseling and doing some interacting instead because it is obviously sucessful due to my experience and could see that its better.

  52. Cara Keith April 15, 2007

    I like the idea of changing the sign for counseling. I agree with some other comments about how it could get confusing. But I do see counseling as more of a two way street both talking back and forth. The point of counseling isn’t to given the answers it is to have dialogue and guide the person to figuring out their own answers right?

  53. Tamara Ward April 19, 2007

    I like the idea of changing signs as it makes more sense. I also think it is a two way street in communicating between the client and the professional. The idea of borrowing signs from other places is quite complex and have to fit with the meaning so therefore this seems to make sense and it does fit to the point.

  54. Judith Moxam November 21, 2012

    While I agree that language evolves along with a culture and that sometimes signs do need to change to reflect this evolution. This begins to look very similar to feminists movements who insist we change national anthems to be gender neutral or names of cities renamed because they are offensive in some archaic way. Sometimes a word is just a word and a sign is just a sign. If we imply oppression at every turn we will never have time for more important work that needs to be done.


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