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16

Keni

meaning. Asigncancombine boththe manner inwhichan eventoccurredand thesigner’s attitude toitsimultaneouslyby modifyinganyaspectof thebasicsign–e.g. thenuancesof ‘I shouldask’, ‘I must ask’ or ‘I will ask’ fromthebasicsign‘I ask’. Signcanthusachieveeffectsintone, characterandmood whicharesimilarto, if notmoresophisticatedthan, effectsin spokenlanguage. Thesimultaneityof Signis another uniquecharacteristic– multipleevents or characters canbedescribedat once. Inone ofherpoems, DorothyMiles(apioneeringAmericanSignpoet and one ofthefoundermembersoftheNew YorkDeafTheatre Companyinthe1960s), describes her cat, abirdandherself sleepinginher gardensimultaneouslyusingbothhands and herface/head. Thiscanalsobeusedforabstract ideas, suchas beingtornbetweentwocultures (e.g. Deaf andAsian), where eachhandsigns a separate culture. Simultaneitycanalsobe used foremphasis,tomakean‘aside’, tocreatecompoundsigns (spaceshuttle), tosignaphrase(borndeaf), toestablishatime frameetc. Sign evolves like any spoken language – newsigns are createdbycombiningexistingsigns or parts of signs innew ways, by devising newones and by borrowing fromother languages. This kindof innovationoccurs extensivelyin‘art Sign’ –themodifiedSignusedinSignpoetry. Anexampleof suchaneologismusedinaSignpoemcomposedbyDorothy Mileswasatwohandedsignwhereonehandmade thesignfor ‘tree’ andtheothermirroredthesamesignupsidedown, thus creatingasinglesignforatreeanditsreflectioninwater. Sign’ssyntaxandgrammararequiteunlikethoseof spoken English. Forexample, inspokenEnglisha sentencemight read ‘Iclimbedthetree’. InSignthisis, bynecessity, ‘Tree–me– climb’. It is necessarytoestablishthetreebeforeanyonecan climbit. ThusSignmustsetascenefirstbeforeanyactioncan happen, aqualitywhichimpartssome affinityforperformance. The‘visualness’ of thelanguagemaybeseeninthespecial kindof ‘pronouns’ or proforms that Signemploys. Manynoun

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