Concept of ASL Thesaurus I have noticed there are controversies on what should be signed for various words. From that, I take the view of the concept that ASL has a thesaurus. The difference between dictionary and a thesaurus is that a dictionary describes what a sign means, while a thesaurus compares a sign to another sign with the same or similar meaning. There can be a whole list of signs. Actually, ASL has a thesaurus.
Thesaurus of “Wow” Here is a thesaurus example for the word “wow”. Amazed, Flabbergasted, Mind-blown, Dumbfounded, Wow
Thesaurus of “Video” Another thesaurus example is for the word “video”. Video (6x)
Identities-Based Signs Signs for identities are more controversial and raw such as signs related to region, race, LGBT+, disability, religion, etc.
Different Perspectives In the case where there are two different views on a sign, how should it be handled?
Perspectives on “America”: View 1 For example the sign for USA, one view is that the sign “America” is not right because the word “America” means the entire American continent, not just USA. By signing “America” for USA, it reflects that they are self-centered with a privilege of thinking egoistically. The better to sign for USA is “U.S.”
Perspectives on “America”: View 2 Another view is the sign “America” solely means “USA”, not including the North and South America, since the sign for North and South America is this. Also, they think that a sign should not be limited to spelling a written English word.
Perspectives on “America”: View 3 Another view will create a sign based on the country’s geographic appearance. Instead of signing this, we can sign it this way. The reason behind this sign is because it includes the geography of Alaska, Hawaii, the Caribbean Islands including Puerto Rico, and the mainland including the shape of Florida. Here is the sign again.
Perspectives on “America”: Response to View 3 While the first two view would think that changing to a new sign would require work to spread awareness. So it is better to keep the original sign. Also that new sign looks like something that would cause triggers. It is better not to do that.
Thesaurus Approach Actually, all of their perspectives are valid and reasonable respectfully. Now, here is the question. How can all perspectives and preferences be respected? This is where I take an ASL thesaurus approach where I can choose what fits best.
Sources from Identities Actually, linguistic choices are based on individual preferences out of respect. When using signs for identities, be sure to respect the signs come from those who are part of those identities.
Influence on Sign Variations The language has different influences which is what makes a thesaurus have a list of signs. I will present examples of these different influences. One of the influences is individual preferences. Here are some examples.
Influence of Individual Preferences Look at the handshapes differences for 24, ocean, and people. The influence of individual preferences can come from personal choice or external influences like from local, social media, or International Signs.
Influence of Reduced Handiness There is also an influence where some prefer to reducing two hand-based signs into one hand-based signs. For example “birthday” becomes this sign, “what” becomes this sign, and “million” becomes this sign.
Influence of Written English Another influence comes from written English words by fingerspelling those written words. For example zoo, air, and TV.
Influence of English Letters Another English influence is from combining a letter from the English word with a sign. For example water, respect, and chocolate.
Influence of Visual Concepts There is also an influence of visual concepts. There are different ways of describing the same concept visually. For example eye-popping, mind-boggling, and jaw-dropping.
Reducing English Influence: Iconicity Then there is the result of reducing English influence, which is the intent of reducing the English influence. There are two strategies. One of them is to replace the letter sign into an iconic-based sign. For example “world” becomes this sign, “weather” becomes the sign, and “dinosaur” becomes this sign.
Reducing English Influence: Letter Regression The other strategy is to eliminate the letter into a different handshape to fit a generic conceptual sign that looks like signs already in existence. For example changing kitchen into “cooking”, changing interview into “talking”, and changing human into “body”
Influence of Sign Distinction And then there is the influence of sign distinction where the goal is to retain signs rather than eliminating letter signs into generic signs that look like other signs which can lead to misunderstanding. For example keeping the letter sign “resource” to distinguish it from the sign “thing”, keeping the letter sign “therapy” to distinguish it from the sign “help”, and keeping the sign “math” to distinguish it from the sign “figure out”.
Concept of ASL Thesaurus In short, ASL has a thesaurus where there are a listing of signs for the same meaning. There are different perspectives on signs and should be respectful of others. When it comes to teaching ASL, let’s teach that ASL has a thesaurus and expose them to it. Does ASL have limited options of signs? No, ASL has a vibrant thesaurus naturally.