2nd IPSL Workshop @ EOC
The IPSL blog is back to reporting on Sign Language, this time with embedded videos as well! The videos are without sound, if anyone know of compressing software that can create smaller files with sound, please let me know.
The second IPSL Workshop at the EOC was held on 30th October 2009 at the DU-NTPC ICT Centre. It is clear from the large number of participation that it is becoming an important event in the calendar for the deaf in the capital. In this workshop, there were two presentation and very lively discussion from the deaf participants. There were a total of 35 participants, out of which 24 were deaf, including students from China, Nepal, Burundi and Uganda.
First, it was Prof Rama Kant Agnihotri, Co-ordinator of the EOC and Professor of Linguistics at the Department of Linguistics who gave a highly germane talk on the issue of “Standardization” as it is understood for spoken languages. He further compared it and drew parallel with the situation in Sign Language Standardization.
Here is a video clip:
It was pointed out that there are four stages in the Process of standardization in natural languages (including of course, Signed languages) as follows:
As a part of the process of Selection, one variety is chosen to represent the language. Agnihotri pointed out that this is also point where the “Politics of standardization” enters into the picture. It is the powerful who are in a position to select a particular variety. This is obviously not the ideal situation because as linguists and human beings, we would like to believe that all languages or all varieties are equal.
The second stage of codification involves the process of writing up dictionaries and grammars of the variety chosen as the standard. It is important to understand that codification implies bringing into existence real objects like dictionaries and grammars although – and this is the important part – all languages and varieties have ‘dictionaries’ and ‘grammars’ since lexicon (or a list of words) and syntax (knowledge of making sentences in a language) are part of knowing a language, thus, knowing a language means knowing the dictionary and grammar of that language. It was further emphasized that language comes first and dictionaries and grammars later. At this point, Kakooza Muhammes from Uganda pointed out that in Africa (Kenya) there were attempts to first write the grammar and they propagate the language but that experiment, apparently, failed. It was pointed out by Agnihotri that there are certain languages which are not natural languages, foremost being computer languages, that are planned languages. Also, among the spoken languages, Esperanto is one language that is a planned languages but of course there are now 2nd, 3rd generation natural speakers of Esperanto.
The third stage of the process of “Elaboration” involves producing various texts and corpuses in the chosen variety. This is also a stage where discrimination on the basis of the variety one speaks (or signs) may be associated, where the chosen variety (and therefore its users) attains a certain amount of power. Questions raised at this stage by Vishi from Kerala and Upendra from Nepal about this situation being less than ideal.
The fourth stage of “Dissemination” involves spreading the chosen variety among the masses through education and other means. It was very poignantly pointed by Prof. Agnihotri that actually there is in fact sometimes a conscious effort to in fact to not disseminate it to the masses by changing the variety in such a way that the masses will never be able to catch up with the so-called standard variety. At this point, I clarified it for myself that this is something that is more likely to happen within a chosen variety, that is, class-based differences start creeping (and designed) once the variety has been chosen as a standard.
The impression given is that it “unifies” but actually it separates people. In addition, it also produces “attitudes”, where one starts ‘loving’ the standard (and by now ‘high’) variety and ‘hating’ the non-standard (by now ‘low’) variety.
At this point there were many objections and questions from Bablu Kumar (from Delhi), Robindranath Sarkar (from Kolkata), Upendra Khanal (from Nepal), Guan Xuesong (from China) and Njejimana Charles (from Burundi) about their varieties and their place in their lives.
Rabindranath Sarkar at the 2nd IPSL Workshop at EOC, DU
Njejimana Charles at the 2nd IPSL Workshop at EOC, DU
Prof Agnihotri concluded by saying that language is a continuum and there is a model which helps make standardization inclusive and not exclusive and this is the model of multilingualism which has been successfully employed in many countries.
However, many questions remained and the audience was invited for another round of discussion on this topic during the 3rd workshop on 27th November, 2009. Here is a handout of the talk that was distributed during the talk.
The second presentation was by Hidam Gaurshyam on “Adpositions as Classifiers in IPSL”. Hidam started by reporting that many native signers of IPSL when asked about separate signs for Adpositions (prepositions or postpositions like in, on, under, across, etc.) usually deny their existence. However, in ASL (American Sign Language) is claimed to have separate sings for Adpositons. Hidam claimed that in fact, IPSL also has Adpositions but that it’s incorporated into the verb in the same way that a Classifier (like HAND-SHAPE) incorporates features of the noun it classifies.
Hidam presenting at the 2nd IPSL Workshop at EOC, DU
Here is a preliminary version of the talk.
Geetnajali again did a marvelous job of interpreting both the talks in IPSL and interpreting questions back to English: