Is it correct to completely wipe functional words (aka English words) from ASL?
Visual Description/ Transcript: (click to expand)
Groom: This is for my wedding vows. Should I include the sign “by” for the sentence with “inspired by love”?
Theoretical ASL: No, the word “in” is English, which means it has to be removed.
Common ASL: Including “by” is fine. It depends on the sentence.
Let’s take ASL to court!
Judge: This case will be reviewed to decide which is right: have functional words aka English words like “of,” “to,” “be,” “by,” “if,” “or,” “but,” etc. be eliminated or embrace them in ASL. Theoretical ASL for eliminating functional words, come forward to give your opening statement.
Theoretical ASL: ASL isn’t English which means English words cannot be included. Let’s keep ASL grammar simple, not complex trying to decide which English words should be kept. Keep it clear.
Judge: Common ASL for including functional words, come forward to give your opening statement.
Common ASL: Yes, I agree that ASL isn’t English. ASL with functional words is used by most ASL users. Generally, a language borrows features from other languages to benefit itself and to advance. Misleading people with functional words rejecting thinking needs to stop. Slam the brakes.
Judge: Thanks, you two. Linguist, come forward and share your thoughts on this.
Linguist: As a linguist, I specialize in observing how people communicate. Yes, most ASL users do use functional words like, “of,” “to,” “be,” “by,” “if,” “or,” “but,” etc., but not all the time like in English. ASL has its rules. Generally, a language isn’t simply black and white. It has depths with specifications. Functional words from English evolve to become ASL’s own words.
Judge: Thanks. Now, ASL student, please come forward.
ASL Student: I am the best student (crossed out “of”) the month (crossed out “in”) my class.
Common ASL: He meant he is the best student of the month in his class. Please sign this sentence.
ASL Student: I cook and eat my family.
Common ASL: Do you mean that you actually cook and eat your family?
ASL Student: No. (Laughs)
Common ASL: See, he should sign “with,” but it was missing. In today’s ASL educational curriculum, functional words are lacking. We should be teach when to use them or not.
Theoretical ASL: How about signing this line “When my family got together, I cooked and ate with them”?
Common ASL: Yes, that is also correct, but ASL should not be limited to one way. ASL has a wide range of grammatical structures, from simple linear word order to utilizing advance grammatical features. Both are embraced instead of being limited to one way.
Judge: Thanks. Deaf Grassroots, come forward. I will ask you if you understand ASL with functional words. The sentence is “The business is owned by deaf people.” What does this mean?
Deaf Grassroots: Deaf people own the business.
Judge: Thanks. One more sentence: “They are children of Deaf parents.” What does this mean?
Deaf Grassroots: They are Deaf parents’ children.
Judge: Thanks. Which do you prefer: ASL without functional words or ASL with a minimum of functional words?
Deaf Grassroots: It doesn’t matter as long as the communication is understood.
Judge: Thanks. Now, this case has been reviewed with its evidence. It is important that communication is to be understood effectively. Removing functional words in a way that causes some sentences to be unclear is not acceptable. Be sure not to overload ASL with functional words, but keep it minimized while not eliminating it completely. Just keep the functional words minimal. Common ASL, you’ve won this. Theoretical ASL, we appreciate your investment. (gravel bang)
And now the wedding vows.
In the comparison between absent, minimal, and extra when using functional words, the minimal has the checked mark as the “correct” one.
Absent: Since you mean (crossed out “so”) much (crossed out “to”) me and I (crossed out “was”) inspired (crossed out “by” and replaced with “how what”) your love, I vow I will…
Extra: Since you mean so much to me and I was inspired by your love, I vow I will…
Minimal: Since you mean (crossed out “so”) much to me and I (crossed out “was”) inspired by your love, I vow I will…