Deafness, sign language and rhyme

In people who are profoundly deaf from birth, is there a kind of ‘rhyme’ correlation between similarly-signed gestures?

My daughter is learning sign lanuguage (of some sort) at school; she tells me that the gesture for sweets (candy) is little circles on the cheeks with both index fingers and the gesture for spectacles is similar, but around the eyes (I’m not sure whether she’s right; she has caught me out with her own invented signing before) - would such similar gestures be considered to ‘rhyme’ in any way?

Consider the hard candy. Now consider this hard candy inside the cheek of a person you are observing. That candy makes a visible lump in the person’s cheek. Now think of how you would silently indicate to another person the presence of that candy.

Consider a pair of spectacles. Now think of how you would silently indicate to another person that you wish to indicate a pair of spectacles.

In each case, you will likely use some fashion of a circle, near the appropriate place on your own face.

Invented Signing’s not always bad. After all, vocabulary develops over time and that’s one way. Let’s go back to the spectacles for a moment. If you make the classifier sign for “animal” and then the sign for “spectacles,” one could easily infer you mean a racoon. That may only be the correct sign for your area, but still correct in that area.

Remember that even in an audible language, there are other aspects to Poetry. Not all poems use rhyme. Likewise, in Sign Language, one can consider the different imagery and perhaps the class of the signs in question.

Feel free to start your search at:[ul][li][][][*][/ul][/li]
Good luck!

Boy, that’s some sign you got there. What country is this sign language? Im trying to learn signs
from all the US states & that candy sign is a new one.

The movie “Children of a Lesser God” also shows some of this (and it’s a really good movie).


Please check

The instructor provides the following information:

It’s apparently ASL, but could just be a Utah dialect of ASL.

That sign for candy - twisting your index finger on your cheek - is prevalant in BritishSL. And Mangetout is in Britain, which would explain your confusion Handy.

[aside]When I was three my mum was asked to do some demonstration poses for a basic sign language book that was being produced. She took me along to the photoshoot and the cameraman must’ve liked me or something because he got me to do lots of signs and I am in the book too doing the signs for “monkey” and “ice cream” and “spider”. It’s out of print now, but I hold my copy dear. I look so cute! [/aside]

As for Deaf poetry, there is indeed such a thing, but I’m not sure if you’d call anything within it “rhyming”. I would think more in terms of visual symmetry - one sign maybe mirroring another or complementing it. It’s more using the unique way sign language can convey emotions to effect. Yes, “symmetry” is the word I would use, rather than “rhyme”.

The most famous Deaf poet I can think of (and by that I mean a poet who uses sign language as her medium, rather than a poet who happens to be deaf) is the late Dorothy Miles. Here is some of her work, but having it written down kind of takes the life out of it. I’m searching for a video online but I can’t seem to find any. A Google search on her name yields much of her poetry and discussions on the nature of deaf poetry.

If you’re really interested you could take a look at some of the articles here.

Incidentally, your daughter might have fun practising her BSL here. It’s basic, but it has those all-important “please” and "thankyou"s :wink: (And I know some of the people doing the signing!)

I use this one for american sign:
Its actually a famous sign language cdrom brought onto the web.

Ursula Bellugi wrote about how sign is a real language in & of itself & not a modification of english &
she showed it by giving sign puns & such.

Thank you Francesca, that was exactly what I was looking for. Symmetry in signing is analogous to rhyme in speech, I think.


Check out that SignWriting (yes, that’s the way it’s spelt) link I provided above. There actually is a way to write that poetry in such a way that it’s not a written translation, but rather writing the poetry in its original language, Sign.