First and Tenth days of Deaf Awareness Month

It’s the 10th of September and a lot of topics have been differs about Deaf life in Trinidad and Tobago, from the HoH Dr.Eric Williams who helped shape our country into what it is today,


to CODAs and Deaf/HoH university students who are starting this year (not the first, but definitely not the last either), to Deaf terminology, and employment opportunities.

I think I’ll post a bit of my own.

TTSL has its origins in ASL, BSL, home signs, and even the spoken Trinidad English.

Some night it was, I was going through some signs in TTSL that I could remember. Then I found a sign that could possibly be influenced by BSL. Maybe. Any British Sign Language users, feel free to correct me if it seems wrong. I mean, total knowledge of BSL came from Ed Sheeran’s You Need Me video. And you didn’t even see that much coming to the end.

The sign for FAULT in TTSL is an I handshape, (like the I in ASL), pointing up, with the far side of the hand (away from the thumb) through direction, showing who is at fault. I point it to her, it’s her fault; placed against my chest, my fault, etc.

The same handshape is used in BSL, denoting a negative.(from what I saw ( from aforementioned video ) and this link. In it can be described as Primary hand held in fist with little finger extended and pointing up. It doesn’t seem to use direction to show who or what is bad from this information.

Semantically, then, it could have come from  BSL. Phonetically / phonologically as well? The handshape is possible in both. Location is similar, if not the same – in front of chest. Orientation is also similar, with the pinkie pointing up. Movement. There is movement in TTSL, where direction shows who’s at fault. I can’t say for BSL for sure. Non manual markers. You see it in even the spoken Trini languages – facial expressions, wide hand movements. Naturally,  TTSL would be the same. Non manual markers are a significant element in the phonology of the language even among other sign languages where it’s necessary. You can see it in FAULT where the signer had a sad expression on his face. I can’t say for  BSL although for BAD it doesn’t really seem that it’s there.

So there is my little observation about the origins of our sign language. I’m not Deaf or a native signer in any language, so it’s pretty much foreign to me.

Because of this, if I’m wrong, anyone with knowledge in ASL, BSL, TTSL or any sign language that can help refine it, please feel free to tell me. I’m more than willing to learn.

– K. ~


September is Deaf Awareness Month

At least in Trinidad and Tobago. The DEAF organisation will post articles and posts that will inform people about Deaf Culture,  misconceptions and issues faced by the community, and achievements made by members of the community,

For this month I want to share some of these, so that people know, from TnT’s own Deaf community a bit about them and their lives and language. Which I think is good, since not many people think about it, or are aware about TTSL.

– K. ~

Paul & Tina’s Signalong: Haters gonna hate

In reblogging this for the comments and article alike. These issues here are some of what I need to learn more about. And I feel like more Hearing people ( along with me) need to know these too

Daniel Greene

I am not as offended or concerned about Paul & Tina’s Signalong as some people are. I think exposure to ASL can be a good thing, regardless of who’s signing. Personal experience: the first time I was truly impressed with the beauty of ASL was at a monologue competition in 1985, when a hearing girl spoke and signed a monologue from Children of a Lesser God. I have no idea, in retrospect, how good she was at signing; all I remember is I thought it was beautiful. The fact that she spoke and signed at the same time made it accessible to me. I don’t think I would have gotten the same impression at the time if I had seen a Deaf woman delivering the same monologue, even if it were interpreted. I might have been more intimidated than entertained. I might have seen more differences than similarities. I might not have been…

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The Spread of Spoken languages

I’m gonna be specific here. This isn’t gonna be about a general explanation of the spread of languages, blah blah blah. But it does deal with the spread of spoken languages to territories,  whether near to or far from the country of origin.

The languages of a group move from territory to territory with its people. Spanish with Spanish-speakers to Miami, for example, English and Amerindian languages to Central America from St. Vincent, Trinidad English Creole to Canada and the US with students etc. These are some examples. More often than not, communities with native speakers of these languages are set up, and newcomers from the homeland can settle there no problem.

But what if Justin from Tennessee talks to Jessica from Port-of-Spain? Language is bound to follow them both. Yes they both speak English, but their individual Englishes are different. Can they communicate in English without using elements that only one of them could understand? Jose from Miami will prefer to speak to Tío Ángel in Spanish and speak in English to Drew. Is this right? Is this wrong? What if Drew knew Spanish fluently? What if he spoke it around Jose’s family or neighbours? Is it right or wrong? If a foreigner comes in speaking the language of the community, the response can be either negative or positive or I guess neutral, but that seems unlikely to me.

This is related to the article I wrote asking about the Deaf response to the Hearing using Sign language. My questions still apply.

But what about spoken languages. Should they come into contact with other spoken languages? Should they be spread, exchanged, borrowed from, adapted, or changed in any way? Or should they be confined to native speakers of that language, whether home or abroad? Is it alright for someone, who is not a native TEC speaker, to know what fast means in TEC  compared to fast in US Standard English? Cuz both are different.

I feel like the answer is no, because that’s how languages survive. But still when comparing it to signed languages, and Deaf culture, where it seems, at least in the States, from what I see, that people may be reluctant to let their particular native language spread past certain [social] boundries, that the same could happen among different spoken languages and their native users.

Is this the case in native users of a given Spoken Language? Why is this the case? Or why is it not the case? What about you personally? Should you learn theirs, or should they learn yours? Or leave well enough alone?

– K. ~

Signed languages and the Hearing

Yesterday, I was tired of the Everything that TV offers. Instead, I retreated to my room and chose to watch ASL music videos. I have my favourites.  Most I’ve seen are done by learners of the language – mostly, of not all, Hearing – but one or two were done by the Deaf, so I’ve gotten to see every bit of the phonology used – hand shapes, movement, location, orientation, and the Non manual markers that, I didn’t see, or pick up on. Not even gonna start on the syntax, or pragmatics, or Semantics of it.

So yesterday I was, well, listening to the songs by one dude whose interpretations I like, and I was reading the comments on the videos he posted. Naturally he got reviews and critiques both good and bad. But the bad ones brought up a few things I was wondering about. He’s Hearing and picked up the language in high school. Since then he’s continued with it, and it’s taken him around, touring and signing with bands, and stuff.

Since he’s hearing, I wondered what the Deaf thought about his signing – good, bad, room for improvement, insulting even? Cuz, they have their own culture, who are we, the Hearing, to think that we could join in on this too? All that jazz. I mean, it’s significant jazz, but still. Apparently, what I got from the comments was that they do find it insulting. Not because he chose to sign, I think, but because – one claimed language/culture appropriation, another said that his signing was wrong, incomprehensible, and just plain bad. I’ll state that these comments and comments like these came from the Deaf and Hearing alike.

Also, I know that here in Trinidad, I dunno about Tobago, that people who approach the Deaf or Deaf advocates, tend to want to learn sign language, referring to ASL, not realising that TTSL exists, and the Deaf community tends to teach ASL instead, knowing that this was the case. Well, was fairly recently – to be fair – and now, TTSL classes are being taught so… Positive changes, man. And the Deaf, at least the people that I’ve communicated with, seem to not mind if the Hearing learn a sign language, whether ASL or TTSL.

Background a bit? From what I remember, ASL and BSL were brought to the islands, and these together with the home signs used by the deaf members of a community were all significant to the development of TTSL when the Cascade School of the Deaf began. TTSL was developed and used when the children communicated with each other outside the classroom, and the “official” (need a better adjective) ones were used inside the classroom. I think that’s the case for some, where ASL is the classroom language and TTSL, if known among the students,  is used outside. Like Trinidad Standard English, and Trinidad English Creole – two different languages used in two different situations. Still TTSL isn’t necessarily learned by the Deaf. I believe, most times, especially among certain groups, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, or other groups, that ASL alone is taught. Most times. Not all the time. Most times.

Of course, I’m not an expert, so I could get this horribly wrong, so if any Trini people know better, please lemme know in the comments below.

So I’m wondering, putting all that aside, like, I don’t want it to bias any opinion or conclusion that I could have or get, this is for the Deaf community, of any Deaf community, anywhere – native signers, the culturally Deaf, the profoundly Deaf, Hard of Hearing, families and friends of the Deaf, anybody else I’m missing(?) – does it make sense for the Hearing to study and use the signed languages of a community? Is it good? Is it bad? If you know a Hearing person is learning any SL, would you personally help them, or let them know where to improve?  Or would you just tell them to stop? And why, in either case?

– K. ~