Our Translation Process

Perhaps you’re wondering how these translations came about? We would like to provide you with a short expansion so that you have a clearer idea of our process. Our content experts for each branch choose certain vocabulary items to present to the group of translators. They carefully explain the exact meaning of the terms/concepts, providing examples which relate specifically to their usage within the context of the disciplines. The group then brainstorms different ways they might sign/expand upon these ideas, being ever mindful of incorporating the original intent and, even more importantly, adhering strictly to the linguistic rules of ASL. A lot of time, effort, and discussion are expended in the process of determining possible correct ways to sign these ideas… Analyzing how a change in handshape orientation or movement might add a different nuance of meaning takes monumental effort, and sometimes just one sign requires a whole hour of discussion!

As you peruse the menu of terms/concepts, you may be surprised at some of the terms included in this project because there are already ASL signs you are aware of, and you may be curious as to why we felt the need to create more. These new signs are specific their subjects, and, as stated above, their meanings might even vary among practitioners. Therefore, the common usage of the term is not appropriate in this context.

Here is an example to help clarify: The concept of IDENTITY in Philosophy. ASL already has a sign that is generally used to express that idea. But in our Philosophy workshop, we learned that there are actually 3 different ways to sign IDENTITY depending on the meaning set forth by a particular philosopher in a particular sense of the meaning. So we came to consensus on new signs for each definition.

You may also notice that many of our signs are strings of signs to create meaning, instead of just one sign. Drawing again from our Philosophy branch, see the example of FREE WILL. We understand that this may not seem like the most elegant way to sign, nor the fastest way to get the idea across. Here is our reasoning: Our goal in this first foray is to clearly convey the intention/meaning in the realm of each branch, even though it may seem inelegant at first. We know that as the ASL community adopts and utilizes these signs, the natural process of language evolution will occur and gradually these sign will pare down to more efficient versions, eventually becoming one complete sign which will encapsulate our preliminary, more expanded versions.

We've considered this issue, but during the course of our discussions, Patrick Graybill provided the example of the invention of Microwave ovens, and how that idea was originally expressed with many signs, and over time it has evolved into one efficient sign in common usage today.

That’s the way all languages evolve, not just ASL!

We hope that users of ASL will adopt these signs, try them out, and that the natural processes of language fluidity will occur. And we can’t wait to see what transpiresPerhaps some of our signs will stay in the form we set forth, and some will morph into something else.

The process of discussion, analyzation, and experimentation which we undertake is rigorous and has resulted in over 900 new signs! We look forward to seeing what you — the ASL community — will create as you adopt these signs and incorporate our work into your own vocabularies!

Let’s see what happens next!

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