Monday, March 23, 2015

The ADA and You. Yes, You.

Hopefully this post can help businesses and non-profits understand their obligations in a no nonsense way. If you want all the exact legal stuff check the resources at the end. I also hope it can help interpreters and Deaf people talk to businesses about their ADA obligations.

It seems like more and more often these days I'm seeing articles about organizations pushing back against following ADA requirements. On a day-to-day level this isn't new. Anyone who has had a prolonged relationship with any disability community sees it constantly. For me it's usually doctors' offices telling Deaf people that the office isn't responsible for providing interpreters. (This is wrong by the way). Seriously, doctor's offices are the worst for this, and yet you can kind of understand how they wouldn't know. After all, they are usually small offices that specialize in being doctors, not in legal matters. While I'm sure they all have a lawyer they work with for the things you need to be a practicing doctor, they don't have anything that would approach being a legal department, and they probably contract out the business end. Basically, even though they're wrong and need to know that they are wrong, you hope that they'll listen to reason. (They often don't). What I can't abide are huge, huge institutions that don't seem to understand their responsibilities under the ADA. Seriously, it's disgusting.

Part of why this irks me is that it touches on the two courses I teach regularly, Business and Government Interpreting, and Medical Interpreting. I teach a units on HIPAA and on the ADA. So here's what I'm going to do, even though I do ADA consulting as a business, I'm going to give away some of the milk for free. I am going to give the quick and dirty on your responsibilities vis-a-vis the ADA. I will try to be brief, I will try to not be sarcastic. I will add the disclaimer that I am not a lawyer and that this blog entry should not be construed as legal advice. (I don't know why we always have to say that, but there, it's said, don't sue me.) I'm going to try to do this in plain language.

Quick Primer

The ADA has five titles.

Title I: Employment

This commonly misunderstood title requires accommodations in places of employment. This means that you must accommodate your employees and cannot discriminate against disabled people in hiring. The part of this title that is misunderstood is that it applies only to employers with 15 or more employees. This is done to protect small businesses. The problem is that many businesses totally misunderstand this and think that if they have less than 15 employees they don't have to accommodate customers. These people are wrong. (As we'll see later). Remember, Title I only applies to your employees, not your customers.

Title II: Non Discrimination in State and Local Government Services

The Feds are already unable to discriminate so this law was set up so everyone below the Feds have to play nice. It's a shame that we even need this kind of law. Basically, if you're a government you can't refuse service to people based on disability.

This is what makes stories like this one, in which a Deaf man was held in an Arlington, VA jail for six weeks without and interpreter so inexcusable, because by law it's totally avoidable. I'm no policing expert, but we do kind of tend to rely on the police and the corrections system to, at minimum, know the law. However, this quote from the sheriff's department lawyers shows that they're either complete jerks, or totally ignorant of the ADA:
"even if the discrimination were intentional, the lawyers write that it would not violate federal law because there is a rational basis for the discrimination: "it takes extra resources and creates additional security considerations to bring in an ASL interpreter,''
That's right, these lawyers think that federal law allows for discrimination on the rational basis that it's expensive, and requires more work. But hey, what's six weeks of totally unnecessary incarceration when there's a couple hundred bucks to be saved? The weirdest part of this story is that it happened in an area with the highest concentration of Deaf people in the country. So you'd think they'd know better. It's inexcusable and the tax payers of Arlington are about to be at least several hundreds of thousands of dollars lighter.

In another instance I had a state university fight me on paying for interpreters for clubs and organizations. They're stance was that it was expensive and that if they had to pay for interpreters for all clubs they'd be ruined. They also claimed that their use of federal funds didn't mean they had to follow the ADA. They were wrong on both counts.

Title III: Nondiscrimination on the basis of disability by Public Accommodations and in Commercial Facilities

Here's where all those businesses with less than 15 employees need to pay attention. Regardless of how many employees you have, if you serve the public, you have to provide accommodations. "Oh ho!" you say, "But interpreting is expensive. I can claim this 'undue hardship' loophole thing and then I won't have to pay." Yeah, you're out on that "cool life hack."

The cost of service is in no way contingent on or related to the price the customer is paying. So let's say you charge $100 for a patient visit, but an interpreter costs $130. Too bad. Seems unfair? Sorry, that's the cost of doing business. But if you think of it the way the government does it hurts less. You see, the undue hardship test is based on your total annual operating budget. So, assuming you turn a profit of more that $130, you have to pay for the interpreter. It might also interest you to know that the last time I checked (2014) no organization had ever won an undue hardship case. Ever. Never, ever. Ever. If you think you're going to claim undue hardship to avoid accommodating a client, be ready to pay way more in a law suit than you were going to pay for an interpreter.

"Ah," you say, "but I'm a non-profit. Obviously I don't have to provide accommodations, I have none of these profits you speak of." Sorry. The ADA doesn't distinguish between for profit and non-profit. Again, the standard is annual operating budget. You would be shocked (shocked!) to know some of the enormous, well known, national non-profits that have contacted me for volunteer interpreting. These are organizations that are paying huge staffs of lawyers and marketers and web designers, and writers, and have huge paid boards and management structures and so on. But when they have to pay for accommodations, all of a sudden they're poor.

Sorry non-profits, if you have any employees or pay for any services, you should be paying something for accommodations. Do you call around for free plumbers, or free electricity? Do you ask for student volunteer accountants? Do you petition for free Internet service? No? Then why do you think you should get your accommodations for free?

That said, if you're a non-profit there are ways to get low cost or free interpreting services, please contact me for a consultation.

I'm kidding. If you have people who are already a part of your organization who are qualified to provide accommodations, ask them. But make sure they're qualified. Seriously. Not just someone who knows some signs. Or ask for donated services, for which you will provide a donation receipt. That way everyone understands that services aren't free, and that in the event that no volunteer is available, you know how much you can expect to pay for service.

I recently saw this story about a Deaf family suing a peewee football league for failing to comply with the ADA. I encountered this in a local league as well. A Deaf kid made an All Star team and the league had no plan as to how to provide an interpreter at the All Star show-case tournament. If you are a non-profit you must come up with an accommodation plan right now. 

Right now. (Are you done yet?)

You have to put it in your budget. You have to add it to your fundraising. Seriously, if you have Deaf people in your realm or region at all you have to have a accommodation slush fund. If you don't you're setting yourself up for trouble.

Oh, and for you medical providers, that means you have to provide services for immediate family members of the patient (parents, spouse, children). 

Title IV: Telecommunications

Title V: Misc.

These probably don't apply to you, but you can look them up.



I can't stress this enough, you can't get around this stuff. You think you can, but you can't. I once worked for a company whose lawyers told them they could do all kinds of things they were sure were totally OK according to loopholes in federal law. They did this even though many of us employees warned them they were breaking the law. They ignored us, the Feds hit them with a $20M penalty and the company almost went under. Seriously, don't mess around here, just go ahead and do what you're supposed to do. Plan ahead. Understand that like taxes and insurance, ADA compliance is part of your overhead. It's not extra, it's not a surprise, it's a standard. Get used to it.

Really, I shouldn't have had to write this. There's a million guides out there for you. The problem is, you're ignoring them. So now there's one more. If you want more legalistic resource they're out there. In fact, I'll even give you some resources below.


Friday, March 20, 2015

Consecutive Interpreting: A Brief Review (2004)

This paper has found new life in the BA Interpreting major at Gallaudet, where it has become a favorite citation for a project on consecutive interpreting. It was first published on my old blog back in 2004. I am bringing it here in order to have everything in one place. This series of squibs were written between 2002 and 2004. They can be read for CEUs at CEUs on the Go!

     In its purest form, consecutive interpretation is a mode in which the interpreter begins their interpretation of a complete message after the speaker has stopped producing the source utterance.  At the time that the interpretation is rendered the interpreter is the only person in the communication environment who is producing a message.  In practice, a consecutive interpretation may be rendered when the interpreter does not have a text in its entirety, that is, the person delivering the source utterance may have more to say, but the interpreter has enough information to deliver a message that could stand alone if need be.  It is important to note that although the person who originated the message has ceased their delivery of new information, this speaker has not necessarily given up the floor and, once the interpretation has been delivered, the speaker may resume delivery of their message.

            Though most people may be more familiar with simultaneous interpretation, where the interpreter renders their interpretation while still receiving the source utterance, consecutive interpretation has distinct advantages in certain interpreting situations, not the least of which is that consecutive interpretations render more accurate, equivalent[i], and complete target texts.  In fact, the two modes, when performed successfully, employ the same cognitive processing skills, with the only difference being the amount of time that elapses between the delivery of the source utterance and the delivery of the interpretation.  This being the case, mastery of techniques used in consecutive interpretation can enhance an interpreter’s ability to work in the simultaneous mode.

The Interpreting Process
Before we continue I would like to take a moment to explain the interpreting process in order to explain how consecutive interpretations produce more accurate and equivalent target texts.  In order to interpret a text the interpreter must be able to receive and understand the incoming message and then express it’s meaning in the target language.  In order to accomplish this task, the interpreter must go through an overlapping series of cognitive processing activities.  These include: attending to the message, concentrating on the task at hand, remembering the message, comprehending the meaning of the message, analyzing the message for meaning, visualizing the message nonverbally, and finally reformulating the message in the target language[ii].  Seleskovitch (1978) compresses these tasks into three steps, noting that the second step includes the, “Immediate and deliberate discarding of the wording and retention of the mental representation of the message” (Seleskovitch, 8); interpreters often refer to this as “dropping form.”  By discarding the form (words, structure etc.) of the source text the interpreter is free to concentrate on extracting and analyzing the meaning of the text, and conceiving strategies for reformulating the message into the target language.
Seleskovitch, among others, points out that there is another practical reason for the interpreter to discard the form of the source text, there is only so much that a person can hold in their short-term memory.  As the interpreter receives the source text the information passes initially through their short-term memory.  If the interpreter does not do anything with this information it will soon disappear.  Smith (1985) notes that, “Short term memory...has a very limited duration.  We can remember...six or seven items only as long as we give all of our attention to them” (Smith, 38).  If an interpreter attempts to retain the form of a source utterance their short-term memory will be quickly filled with individual lexical items, which may not even compose a full sentence.  If the interpreter then attempts to find a corresponding lexical item in the target language for each of the source language forms in their short-term memory all of their attention will be wasted on translating these six items rather than attending to the incoming message, as Smith points out, “as long as pay attention to short-term memory we cannot attend to anything else” (Smith, 38).  In a consecutively interpreted situation this would result in the interpreter stopping the speaker every six or seven words so that the interpreter could clear their short-term memory and prepare to receive new information.  Cleary this is not a preferable manner in which to communicate, and, as Seleskovitch points out, it would require the interpreter to know every existing word in both languages.
It is because of the limitations of short-term memory that interpreters are required to drop form and concentrate on meaning.  Both Seleskovitch and Smith propose that meaningful segments of great size can be placed into long-term memory and retrieved later. Of course a chunk of information must be understood in order to be meaningful.  To demonstrate this idea Seleskovitch uses the example of a person who has just seen a movie, after viewing the film the person will be able to relate the plot and many of the details of the of the film.  If the person continues to discuss the film with others the details will remain fresh in their mind for a longer period of time.  In this example the person is able to remember the film because they understood it, and are, “conversant with the various themes found in films...the movie-goer can easily and fully process the ‘information’ conveyed...and for this reason he remembers” (Seleskovitch, 1979, 32).  Smith adds, “it takes no longer to put a rich and relevant chunk of meaning into long-term memory than it does a useless letter or word” (Smith, 45), because of this the
moviegoer will probably be able to relate the salient points of the film in a fraction of the time it took them to receive the information.  Since the information was understood, its salient points can be reformulated into another mode of communication.  For example, when the moviegoer discusses the plot of the film they do not recreate its form, nor do they take two hours to render their “interpretation.”
Due to the greater ease of assimilating larger meaningful chunks of information it behooves the interpreter to focus their attention on these larger chunks.  A larger chunk of text will usually contain a greater amount of meaning.  It is this relationship that aids the interpreter’s understanding of the source text when working consecutively.  As shown above, once a chunk of information is understood it can be reformulated into another form.  As Seleskovitch (1978) points out, “In consecutive interpretation the interpreter has the advantage of knowing line of the argument before he interprets” (Seleskovitch, 28). 
Interpreters are not charged with merely understanding the message, they must also be able to remember it, in order to deliver their interpretation.  Seleskovitch notes that dropping form aids the interpreter’s memory because they are not concentrating on remembering the words, or even the structure of the source text.  Instead, the interpreter understands the message, connects it to long-term memory, and is then able to reformulate it in much the same way the moviegoer can relate the points of a film.  Of course the interpreter must provide a more equivalent target text than the moviegoer.  To this end interpreters working consecutively will often make notes as they take in the source utterance.  These notes help the interpreter retrieve the message from their long-term memory and consist of, “symbols, arrows, and a key word here or there” (Seleskovitch, 1991, 7).  These few notes are effective because interpreters do not produce their target texts based on the form used by the speaker but on what they understood of the meaning of the source text.  The “key words” may consist of words that will remind the interpreter of the speaker’s point, or of specific information “such as proper names, headings and certain numbers” (Seleskovitch, 1978, 36).
Seleskovitch also points to the time afforded an interpreter working in the consecutive mode as an asset in reformulating the message in the target language.  Because the interpreter does not need to split their attention between receiving the message, and monitoring their output, as is required in simultaneous, they can devote more of their processing to analysis and reformulation of the text thereby producing a more accurate and equivalent interpretation.

Situations for Consecutive Interpreting
            Even though the interpreter’s goal is always to produce the most accurate and equivalent target text possible consecutive interpretation is not always possible.  Situations where one speaker maintains the floor, with little or no interaction with the audience and situations where there is rapid turn taking between a group of interlocutors
may require the interpreter to work simultaneously.  While Seleskovitch notes that spoken language interpreters working at international conferences may sometimes
interpret entire speeches consecutively, the consecutive mode often requires some type of pause so that the interpreter may render the message. 
            That said, there are situations that lend themselves to consecutive interpretation, I would like to discuss three such situations, one general, and two specific.  In general, consecutive interpretation can be employed successfully in one-on-one interpreted interactions.  One-on-one interactions often allow for more structured turn taking behavior than large group situations.  Interviews, parent teacher meetings, and various type of individual consultations may be interpreted consecutively with minimal disruption to the flow of communication perceived by the participants.
            Specifically, there are two types of interpreted situations that, due to the consequences involved, require consecutive interpretation rather than simultaneous.  These are legal and medical interpreted interactions.  In these situations, where a person’s life or freedom is at stake, accuracy and equivalence are of the utmost priority; as we have seen, consecutive interpretation provides greater accuracy and equivalence than simultaneous does.  Palma (1995) points out that the density and complexity of witness testimony requires the interpreter to work consecutively, and to be aware of how long a chunk they can manage effectively.  Palma notes that, especially during expert witness testimony, where the language used can be highly technical and is more likely to use complex sentence constructions; a segment of text that is short in duration may be extremely dense in terms of the content and complexity of its ideas.  In this case the consecutive mode has the added advantage of allowing the interpreter to ask speaker to pause so that the interpreter may deliver the message.  The interpreter may also take advantage of the time in which they hold the floor to ask the speaker for clarification.  Use of the consecutive mode is also helped by the fact that court officials (attorneys, judges etc.) may e familiar with the norms of consecutive interpretation and by the fact that turn taking between the witness and the attorney often proceeds with only one the two speaking at any one time.
            In the case of medical interpreting accuracy and equivalence are also at a premium due to the possible consequences of a misdiagnosis.  Like expert witness testimony, doctor-patient interactions may be filled with medical jargon or explanations of bodily systems that may be particularly dense for the interpreter.  Again turn taking may be more structured in a one-on-one medical environment especially if the patient is in full control of their faculties.  As in the legal setting, the medical interpreter may take advantage of the structure of a doctor-patient interaction in order to request for pauses and clarifications.
            Generally, the logistics of a consecutively interpreted interaction must be established before the communication takes place.  In the case of a single speaker who will have little or no interaction with the audience this means either the speaker will pause for the interpreter, or the interpreter, and hopefully the audience, knows that the interpretation will not be delivered until the speaker has finished.  Establishing the logistics with all the parties involved, before the interpreted interaction takes place, can help prevent the uneasiness that participants often feel while waiting for the interpreter to begin.

Consecutive in Relation to Simultaneous

            As mentioned above the primary difference between consecutive and simultaneous interpreting is involves the time lapse between the delivery of the speaker’s message and the beginning of the interpretation.  While this is a significant difference, one that provides more challenges for the interpreter, at their roots consecutive and simultaneous interpreting modes stem from the same set of cognitive processes.  These processes are described by many interpreting theorists, (Gish, 1986-1994; Colonomos, 1989; Isham, 1986), while Seleskovitch (1978) establishes the parallel between consecutive and simultaneous.  According to Seleskovitch an interpreter working in the simultaneous mode uses the same strategies, dropping form, analyzing the message for meaning, and developing a linguistically equivalent reformulation, as does the interpreter working consecutively.  After all, the goal is the same for both interpreters; to deliver an accurate and equivalent target text.  The difference is that in the simultaneous mode the interpreter continues to receive and process new information while rendering, and monitoring the target for equivalence.  Because interpreters working in the simultaneous mode are still interpreting meaning rather than form they also allow for a lag between themselves and the speaker.  That is, the interpreter waits until the speaker has begun to develop their point before beginning to interpret.  By allowing for lag time, and the
interpreter ensures that they are interpreting meaning, not just individual lexical items, which Seleskovitch suggests would be an exercise in futility.
            “Even memorizing a half dozen words would distract the interpreter, whose attention is already divided between listening to his own words, and those of the speaker...His memory does not store the words of the sentence delivered by the speaker, but only the meaning those words convey.” (Seleskovitch, 1978, 30-31) 
            Seleskovitch solidifies the correlation between the cognitive processes involved in each mode when she states, “simultaneous interpretation can be learned quite rapidly, assuming one has already learned the art of analysis in consecutive interpretation” (Seleskovitch, 30).  This view has been adopted at interpreter training programs at both California State University Northridge and Gallaudet University, both of whom require classes teaching text analysis and consecutive interpreting skills prior to those dealing with simultaneous interpreting.

            Rather than being two separate skills, mastery of consecutive interpretation is in fact a building block for successful simultaneous interpretations.  In fact, thanks to the time allowed for comprehension and analysis of the source text consecutive interpretations offer greater accuracy and equivalence than do simultaneous interpretations.  There are situations that lend themselves to consecutive interpretations (one-on-one interactions), and others still which require use of the consecutive mode (legal, medical) due to the consequences of a possible misinterpretation. 

[i]           For the purposes of this paper, “accuracy” relates to the content of the text, while “equivalence” relates to the ability of the target text to convey the register, affect, and style of the source text.  An “accurate” interpretation will provide the target language audience with all of the information contained in the source text, while an equivalent interpretation will provide the content, and also have the same effect on the target language audience as it would on a source language audience.  By there definitions an interpretation may be accurate, without being totally equivalent, while an equivalent interpretation assumes accuracy.
[ii] List of cognitive processing skills taken from class notes in Risa Shaw’s Gallaudet University class “ITP 724, Cognitive Processing Skills; English” (2002)
The essays "Translating Poetic Discourse,' "Tense in English and ASL: Implications for Interpreters," and "Consecutive Interpreting: a Brief Review" were orginally written as one volume. As such they share one bibliography. Works cited in these three papers can be found below.

--Becker, A.L. 1988, Language in Particular: A Lecture, in Tannen, D (ed.), Linguistics in Context: Connecting observation and understanding, Norwood, NJ
--Cokely, D.  2001, Interpreting Culturally Rich Realities: Research for Successful Interpretations in Watson, D. (ed.) The Journal of Interpretation, RID Publications, Alexandria, VA
--Colonomos, B. 1992, Processes in Interpreting and Transliterating: Making Them Work for You, Front Range Community College, Maryland
--Evans, E.E. and Teschner, R.V.  2000. Analyzing the Grammar of English: A Brief Undergraduate Textbook (second edition), Georgetown University Press, Washington DC
--Gish, S. 1986. “I understood All the Words but I Missed the Point”: a Goal-To-detail/ Detail-To-Goal Strategy for Text Analysis, in New Dimensions in Interpreter Education: Curriculum and Instruction. The 6th National CIT Convention
--Frishberg, N. 1990, Interpreting: An Introduction, RID Publications, Arlington, VA
--Gutt, E.A. 1991. Translation as Interlingual Interpretive Use, in Venuti, L. (ed.) 2001, The Translation Studies Reader, Routledge, NY, NY
--Hatim, B and Mason, I.  1993, Discourse and the Translator, Longman, NY, NY
--Isham, W. 1986.  The Role of Message Analysis in Interpretation, in Interpreting: The Art of Cross Cultural Mediation.  Proceedings of the Ninth National Convention of the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, RID Press
--Labov, W. The Transformation of Experience in Narrative, in A. Jaworski and N. Coupland (eds.) 1999, The Discourse Reader, Routledge, NY, NY.

--Larson, M.L. 1998, Meaning Based Translation: A Guide to Cross Cultural Equivalence (Second Edition), University Press of America, Inc., Lanham, MA
--Lentz, E.M. 1995 (video), The Treasure, In Motion Press
--Liddell, S.  2002 (power point), LIN 707 The Structure of Language: English and American Sign Language, Gallaudet University
--Nabokov, V. 1955. Problems of Translation: “Onegin” in English, in Venuti, L. (ed.) 2001, The Translation Studies Reader, Routledge NY, NY
--Palma, J. 1995, Textual Density and the Judiciary Interpreter’s Performance, in American Translators Association, Translation and the Law, Vol. VIII
--Parker, F. and Riley, K.  1994, Linguistics for Non-Linguists: A Primer with Exercises (2nd printing, 2000), Allyn & Bacon, Needham Heights, MA
--Philip, M.J. date unknown, (video telecourse) Cross Cultural Comparison
--Seleskovitch, D. 1978. Interpreting for International Conferences, (2nd printing 2001), Pen and Booth, Arlington, VA.
--Seleskovitch, D. 1991.  Fundamentals of the interpretive theory of translation, in Expanding Horizons. Proceedings of the 12th National RID Convention 1991, RID Press,
--Shaw, R.  2002 (class notes) ITP 724, Cognitive Processing Skills: English Gallaudet University
--Smith, F. 1985, Reading Without Nonsense, NY Teacher’s College Press, NY, NY
--Valli, C. and Lucas, C.  2000 (3rd edition), Linguistics of American Sign Language: An Introduction, Gallaudet University Press, Washington DC

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Pronouns in ASL and English (2004)

This paper was first published on my old blog back in 2004, as such the information for this topic may be out of date. Still, it can be useful as a historical document. I am bringing it here in order to have everything in one place. This series of squibs were written between 2002 and 2004. They can be read for CEUs at CEUs on the Go!

1.         ASL, like English is a complete and naturally occurring language.  Both share features that linguists have described as endemic of all languages.  First, language is infinitely variable; it can be used to discuss any and all concepts that humans can conceive.  This means that language can be used to discuss things, events and concepts that are not immediately present.  Both ASL and English have symbols to represent the concepts of time, place, conditional events and things that are entirely fictional.  This infinite variability also allows the language to be used in order to analyze itself.  It is clear that English possesses these qualities because without them it would not be able to write this paper. 

Being infinitely variable means that a language has ways of introducing new symbols to refer to new concepts and things.  Both ASL and English have come up with symbols that refer to modern technology and concepts.  Another feature that allows languages to adapt is that single symbols may have more than one meaning.  This polysemousness allows new meanings to be introduced without the creation of new symbols. 

Languages involve sets of symbols that are used to encode meaning.  An example of this in English is letters and words, in ASL and example would be signs.  These symbols may be either arbitrary or iconic.  That is, they can clearly represent their referent (iconic), or the symbol may bear no relation to its referent (arbitrary).  An English example of iconicity is found in words that are onomatopoeic like “cock-a-doodle-doo” or “bang”.  An ASL common ASL example of iconicity is the sign MILK in which the hand mimics the motion of milking a cow.  These symbols are made up of discreet, meaningless parts called phonemes, which combine to form meaningful parts called morphemes.  English phonemes are the different sounds that speakers make that are part of the language.  In ASL phonemes consist of handshape, location, palm orientation, movement, and non-manual markers.  Morphemes in English are words and other units that have meaning, for example the affix “-s” that makes a singular noun into a plural. 

In ASL morphemes are individual signs as well as other features such as numeral incorporation that can modify the meaning of a basic sign.  These morphemes are then combined to form clauses, which combine to form sentences, which combine to form texts.  Combinations at each level are governed by rules that vary from language to language.  On the larger levels, these rules are referred to as “grammar”, the system of rules that governs how words are put together to make sentences, and “syntax” the rules that govern the order and relationships between words and other structural elements in sentences and larger texts.  These rules establish a system in which language is used to communicate information, as well as relationships between chunks of information.  The grammars of ASL and English are different.  An example of this difference can be seen in how each language uses tense to refer to time.  In English speakers use affixes and internal modification to show when an event took place.  For example, walk (present tense) and walked (past tense).  ASL does not use affixes to show tense; rather the signer will establish the time first and then give the action.  For example, MAN WALK (present tense) and YESTERDAY MAN WALK (past tense). 
For more on ASL as a language and differences between ASL and English see Valli & Lucas (1992) and Klima & Bellugi (1979)

2.         The remainder of this text will discuss basic pronoun systems in ASL and English.  Pronouns are symbols in a language that are used in place of nouns and function as simple noun phrases.  Languages may use these parts of speech in place of a noun that has already been established earlier in the text in order to refer back to that noun.  Pronouns may also be used to describe referents that do not have an antecedent.  Pronouns fall into the following categories:

-Personal: Generally refers to people or animate nouns

-Possessive: Shows ownership

-Reflexive: Refers back to a noun within the same sentence, often functions as an object
-Reciprocal: Shows a “mutuality of action[1]
-Relative: Refers to an antecedent that was previously established.  Can initiate a relative clause.
-Interrogative: Can be used to begin questions
-Demonstrative: Indicates specificity
-Indefinite: Does not refer to a specific referent
            While languages are constantly evolving, adding new words and meanings while others fall into disuse, pronouns are considered a minor category.  This means that the set of pronouns within a language is fixed and that no new forms may be added to the lexical category “pronouns”.
For more on the definition of pronouns see Teschner & Evans (2000) and Valli & Lucas (1992)

[1] Teschner and Evans, pg. 183

3.         As described in the definition above ASL pronouns refer to nouns that have already been established earlier in the text.

ASL personal pronouns can be used to refer to three classes of referent, the speaker (1st person), the person being addressed (2nd person), and other nouns that are not the speaker or the addressee (3rd person). The referent in this case will be established somewhere in the signing space.  For example #BOB IX-rt establishes that, until the topic shifts, or a new referent is established, and “Bob” is no longer a topic of conversation, the signers may use a pronominal sign to point to that space when referring to “Bob”.  The sign is generally produced using the  “1” handshape with the index finger pointing towards the referent.  According to Valli & Lucas (1992), “The third person pronoun in ASL can also be produced with the thumb” (pg. 102).  However the pronouns for these three referents have only two forms, 1st person and not 1st person.  Which referent the signer is referring to depends on the context in which it appears.  Because sings with a 3rd person referent are made in space consideration has been given to the function of space in ASL pronoun use.  The consensus is that the space “is articulatory – that is location is simply part of the pronoun sign and it does not have independent morphological meaning” (Valli & Lucas, 103[1]).  This has been determined because the 3rd person referent can be established anywhere in the signing space, therefore the space itself does not have meaning, it merely holds a spot for the referent.

There are two sub categories that indicate ownership, possessive determiners, which function syntactically like other determiners, and possessive pronouns.  Again ASL seems to only make distinctions between 1st (MY, OUR) and non-1st person [POSS-straight-line (singular), POSS-trace-path (plural)[2]] forms.  It is not clear whether or not ASL uses possessive pronouns.

ASL has three indefinite pronouns, these are glossed as SOMEONE, NOTHING, and NONEosc[3].  The form SOMEONE is also used to represent the idea expressed in English as, “something”.  As stated above these pronouns do not have a specific referent.  This is emphasized by the fact that these are not pointing signs, that is, they do not indicate any specific part of the signing space.  Rather, they are produced in neutral space.
ASL has three demonstrative pronouns, these are glossed as THAT, THAT-PRO, and THAT’S-THE-ONE.  As stated earlier these pronouns indicate a degree of specificity.  For example, “REMEMBER LAST-WEEK SEE CAR BLUE?  THAT.”
For more on pronouns in ASL see Valli & Lucas (1992)
4.         English pronouns stand in place of other nouns that have already been established in the text.  In English, sentences must be constructed in such a way that it is clear which antecedent is being referred to.  Here are some examples of personal pronouns in English[4]. In the English sentence, “Bob and Joe went to the park, and then he went home.” it is not clear to whom “he” refers.  On the other hand, in the sentence, “Bob went for a run and then he had lunch.” it is clear the “he” refers to “Bob”.  Still, English pronouns do not always need to have an antecedent in the text if the referent is clear form the context.  For example, in the sentence, “You don’t have any money” it is clear that the pronoun “You” refers to the addressee.  English also shows ownership by using possessive determiners and possessive pronouns.  These two classes are distinguished in English “by the word final /s/ in all but one instance[5]”, that is, adding an –s to the possessive determiner form creates a possessive pronoun for all forms except “my”, which becomes “mine”.
            English reflexive pronouns are used as objects to refer back to subjects in the same sentence.  Thus, the subject and object of the sentence have the same referent.  For example in the sentence, “Moe hit himself with a hammer”; “himself” refers back to Moe.  Therefore, “Moe hit Moe with a hammer.”
            English uses reflexive pronouns to show “mutuality of action: A does to B what B does to A.[6]“ In these cases the reciprocal construction appears in the same clause as its antecedents.  For example “Bob and Joe ran into each other” but never “Bob went into town and Joe ran into each other.[7]
            English uses demonstrative pronouns to show specificity.  Note the difference between “Bob was gored by a bull” and “Bob was gored by that bull.”  In the first sentence any bull could have been responsible, the image conjured up in the listener’s mind is that of whatever a typical bull is to them.  The pronoun “that” in the second sentence has a specific bull as its referent[8].
            Indefinite pronouns are the opposite of demonstrative pronouns in that they do not have a specific referent.  As such, they do not always bear an antecedent.  In fact the only indefinite pronoun to bear an antecedent is “one; in “That’s the one I saw yesterday”, “one” refers to “that”.  The other indefinite pronouns are combinations of “any” or “some” with “body”, “one”, “thing”, or “where”.  That they do not need antecedents is proven by the sentence, “Someone stole my car.”  In this case the speaker does not know who stole his or her car, therefore “someone” does not have specific referent, thus no antecedent is possible.
            Relative pronouns in English tend to initiate relative clauses.  These pronouns replace other nouns that function as the subject of the relative clause.  This subject is identical to that of the object in the first clause as in “Bob hit himself with the hammer that was used to build the barn.”  Here we have two clauses that could stand as sentences; “Bob hit himself with the hammer” and “The hammer was used to build the barn.”  The relative pronoun “that” replaces “The hammer” in the second clause.
            Finally, English uses interrogative pronouns to begin questions.  These are well known by journalists as what, when, when, where, why, how and variations of who (whom/ whose).  These can be use to begin questions such as, “Whom did Bob hit with the hammer?”
For more on pronouns in English see Teschner & Evans (2000)
5.         ASL and English both use pronouns to perform similar functions.  However they do not perform all of the same functions, nor do the pronominal forms of each language encode the same information. 
Many personal pronouns (including possessives) in English encode information regarding person (1st, 2nd, 3rd), gender, (male, female) and case (subject, object) in the form.  For example “I” (1st, subject), “you” (2nd), “him” (masculine, 3rd, object), and “she” (feminine, 3rd).  Conversely, ASL shows only 1st and non-1st person, and does not encode information regarding case or gender in the form.  Case information in ASL is dependent on context and the order of signs in a sentence. There are also some English forms that do not encode case or gender information, such as, “you”.
 Both ASL and English encode number related meaning in their pronominal forms, but they do it in different ways.  Both languages have forms that indicate plurality without indicating a specific number.  For example, English has “you”, “they” and “we”, while ASL has YOU-ALL, THEY, and US among others.  ASL, unlike English, also has plural forms that show a specific number. By using numeral incorporation ASL can encode specific numbers from one through five.  One example is the ASL sign FOUR-OF-THEM produced palm up with a “4” handshape and an oscillating movement.
As discussed, reflexive pronouns in English are used as objects that are co-referential to the subject of the same sentence.  English also uses reflexive forms that are not used to express reflexive concepts but instead are used to express emphasis or exclusivity.  For example, “The bull gored Bob all by itself.” indicates that the bull did not receive any help in goring Bob.  ASL also has a sign that appears to function in this manner.  The sign is glossed as SELF and is used in sentences like, “BOY SELF LEARN++” meaning the boy learned without help.  The one possible reflexive use of SELF in ASL is the sign THINK-SELF, which means “think for ones self”.  In the sentence “IMPORTANT THINK-SELF”, THINK-SELF means that the referent should think for them self, thus the implied subject and is also acted upon by the verb, thus the subject and object are co-referential.  This idea has not been proven and is provided for discussion purposes.
Finally both ASL and English use demonstrative pronouns.  In English the demonstrative form also encodes information as to the proximity of the referent.  The forms “this” (singular) and “these” (plural) indicate referents with a closer proximity to the speaker than the forms “that” and “those”.  ASL demonstratives do not encode information regarding proximity.

[1] Valli and Lucas cite Liddell (1993, 1994, 1995)
[2] Liddell power point handout 10/22/02
[3] Liddell, power point handout 10/22/02
[4] For a list of personal pronouns see the appendix.
[5] Teschner & Evans pg. 181
[6] Teschner & Evans pg. 183
[7] For a list of reflexive pronouns in English see the appendix.
[8] For a list of demonstrative pronouns in see the appendix.


Personal Pronouns:


                                                             Possessive                 Possessive 
 Subjects                  Objects               Determiners               Determiners
I            we            me         us           my         our              mine        ours
you       you          you        you         your       your            yours       yours
he         they         him        them        his         their            his           theirs
she       they          her        them        her         their            hers         theirs
it          they          it           them        its          their            its            theirs

           1st Person                        Non-1st Person
N 1     PRO-1                              PRO
U  2    WE-2                               THEY-2
M 3    THREE-OF-US               THREE-OF-THEM
B  4    FOUR-OF-US                 FOUR-OF-THEM
E  5    FIVE-OF-US                   FIVE-OF-THEM
R Pl.  WE                                   THEY
Possessive Determiners:
                1st person               Non-1st person
singular:   MY                     POSS-straight-line
plural:      OUR                   POSS-trace-path
Reflexive Pronouns:
                                                    singular                plural
1st person                                    myself                 ourselves
2nd person                                   yourself               yourselves
3rd person masculine                  himself                themselves
3rd person feminine                    herself                 themselves
3rd person neuter                         itself                   themselves

SELF, this sign is generally not used reflexively.

[1] English charts from Teschner & Evans Chapter 5
[2] ASL charts from Liddell power point handout 10/22/02