Need. Need. Need. Thus begins the poem “Need” by Peter Cook and Kenny Lerner, a Deaf and hearing poet, respectively. In a social commentary about our dependence on oil, Cook repeats the sign for “need” (an X hand that flicks forward, away from the chest) before slowly becoming a moving image that looks similar to a drill pumping oil from the ground. This use of a specific handshape to represent an idea is the basis of American Sign Language. Additionally, the use of that same handshape to create a sort of story without forming actual signs is an example of imagery in ASL literature.
In English literature, the regular syntax of the language is often changed to produce a different effect, especially in poetry. Imagery is also used more prominently in literature than in everyday conversation. In a conversation, the basic foundation is generally the typical syntax of the language paired with diction and grammar, while imagery is either absent or sparse. Therefore, changes in syntax and imagery often used in literature effectively presents an idea in a completely different way. Considering this with my own language, and considering that American Sign Language is, in the simplest of terms, a language expressed through imagery created by the hands, I wanted to know if ASL uses this same technique.
Before I can even begin to explain what my research question is specifically and how I went about finding an answer to it, I need to delve further into American Sign Language in general and its literature. When I think of literature, I think of novels and poems and screenplays. I think of written words. Until I took ASL classes in high school, I did not think any type of “perfo...
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...Deaf Tree” and “The Ball Story”). I also planned on using videos of conversations in ASL so I could do my own comparisons between conversational ASL and literature. However, I was unable to find any videos of normal conversations and could only find exceedingly primitive examples that were made for people who are trying to learn the basics of ASL. I would like to note that I did find vlogs, which are comparable to a one-sided conversation, made by Deaf people, but I am not an interpreter and no translations were available, so I decided against using them to supplement my research. As a result, I instead used my own knowledge and previous research to draw more information about conversational ASL. When doing my own analyses of the videos, I used the other sources that I have to help me better examine and understand what I am seeing so I could make valid observations.
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