SASLJ Vol. 2 No. 2 - Page 125

Afterword Meier dominant hand, in contact with the extended index finger of the base hand. 2 Not for the first time, distinctions are being made in ASL that are not being made in English. Poetry With the recognition of ASL as an independent language there was growing awareness of the power of artistic signing as a means of expression for Deaf users of ASL. Two papers published here, along with their associated commentaries, consider ASL poetry from different—but complimentary—perspectives. Clayton Valli investigates the formal structures that characterize poetic language; he uses the tools of linguistic analysis to describe patterns of rhyme. Those rhyming patterns in turn allow him to identify lines within ASL poetry. 3 In his commentary, Sam Supalla argues that Valli has adopted an “ASL First” ideology on which ASL—as a full-fledged language much like any other language—may use the same kinds of poetic devices (e.g., rhyme; organization into lines and stanzas) as other languages. The fact that those other languages are generally spoken languages does not mean, to Supalla, that ASL and spoken languages cannot draw from the same poetic toolbox. Here’s the problem: Following Clayton Valli and his discussion of rhyme, we must define our analytic vocabulary at an appropriate level of abstraction, one that allows us to identify genuine similarities in the poetic traditions of signed and spoken languages. 4 At the same time we do not want to overlook real differences between those traditions. Two questions come to my mind when I think about the poetics of ASL and other signed languages: 1) Do different signed languages show different poetic traditions? For example, has the history of Quebec’s Deaf community and the structure of its signed language encouraged distinct artistic traditions amongst LSQ signers? 2) Are there effects of language modality on poetics? Signed and spoken languages—while broadly similar— may nonetheless show interesting structural differences; see Meier (2002) for discussion. Here now is an interesting problem for further research and discussion: Spoken languages are of course not visual languages (except in their written forms). Yet they show abundant visual imagery in their poetry (e.g., Homer’s “rosy-fingered dawn”). In contrast, signed languages use a visual medium to express visual concepts; do we see differences in the 2 For a video of this sign, see the Handspeak site: 3 Valli chose the word rhyme to label the poetic repetition of handshape, movement, or non-manual. He cites Babette Deutsch (1969) for defining rhyme broadly to include the repetition not just of syllable nucleus and coda, as in “The cad was had”, but the repetition of other phonetic elements, as in the alliteration of the name Peter Pan. There are thus broad and narrow senses of rhyme; Valli’s extension of the broader usage of this word to the study of sign poetics is perfectly appropriate. There is, in the analysis of spoken-language poetics, even a concept of eye rhyme that may be applied to words that are spelled alike, but pronounced differently (e.g., though, plough, and enough), or to correspondences of parts within a picture (Hutchison, 2011). [I thank my colleague Tom Cable for discussion of rhyme.] 4 In our earlier discussion of Hockett’s design features, we saw this same problem. His choice of design features—specifically the vocal-auditory channel—did not encourage linguists to search for the ways in which signed and spoken languages might be similar in their structure and use. SASLJ, Vol. 2, No. 2 – Fall/Winter 2018 125