What are idiomatic sign in sign language? We teach to sign! #15

Idiomatic signs in sign language - what is it all about? Natalia Sobótka explains, Jakub Malik translates into Polish Sign Language. "We teach to sign! #15"

Hi. Today I will tell you about idiomatic sign (in Polish: “cultural signs”).

“Idiomatic sign” – what is it?

This is a term that causes problem for sign linguists. On the one hand, the name is very well spread, especially from the point of view of Polish Sign Language didactics, but lacks a linguistic, precise definition, of what these idiomatic sign actually are. Hence, sign language researchers often use the form: “so-called idiomatic sign” (“cultural signs”).

The term “idiomatic sign” was probably created by the deaf themselves. Due to the fact that for a long time there was a lack of Polish Sign Language at a high level, The name “cultural signs” was supposed to include signs, which are used only by native PJM users. Their use was meant to indicate not only of a person’s linguistic level, but also about belonging to the Deaf cultural community. So we see a sociolinguistic dimension here, rather than grammatical or lexicographic. In this regard, idiomatic sign were to be an indicator of the distinctiveness of Polish Sign Language from the Polish language.

However, the situation of Polish Sign Language over the past recent years is changing –>. more and more PJM courses are appearing on the market more and more sign language courses conducted by experienced deaf teachers, In addition, the University of Warsaw has for several years in its list of foreign language lectures also offers a Polish sign language course. The increasingly well-run Polish Sign Language courses result in this, That more and more hearing people are mastering PJM at an advanced level, and consequently -. into their sign language expressions also incorporate cultural signs. It follows that the definition of cultural signs as those used only by native speakers of Polish Sign Language is starting to become obsolete.

Idiomatic Signs vs. the Sign Language System (SJM)?

Idiomatic sign can also be try to characterize them as these, which do not appear in the Sign Language System (SJM). The SJM rejected characters that did not matched the Polish equivalents. This shows that cultural signs do not have a Polish equivalent in the form of a single word. Conveying the meaning of these characters is only possible through description or providing specific contexts of use.

Use of idiomatic signs by sign language learners

The above description agrees with my experience as a hearing person, Who began learning Polish Sign Language as an adult. Idiomatic sign in my view are ones that need to be “told”, place them in the right context and practice their appropriate use. Only after some time the person learning sign language intuitively knows when the given signs match the following sentences. In addition, lecturers teaching these characters, locating them in the following sentences, they mostly use their own linguistic intuition.

„Idiomatic sign”?

Interestingly, in the foreign literature on the subject, there is no exact equivalent of the term “idiomatic sign” (equivalent to the Polish “cultural signs”). Searching on the Internet the phrase “cultural sign”, one can see that under this term English-speaking researchers understand signs referring to the vocabulary of the high culture group. Perhaps a similar term is “idiomatic sign”, which is the distinction in sign language idioms — expressions that have a meaning figurative rather than literal.

As you can see, in sign linguistics there is still much to be discovered and systematization. This is why sign languages are so fascinating!

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