English Mouthings in International Sign Language

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There is a lot of variety between the different sign languages across the world, but somehow sign language users are able to communicate without a shared language. International sign (IS) is a form of improvised language that occurs through mediation between two or more signers from different backgrounds. Research has shown that international sign is a useful form of communication in international situations, but it is still unclear what the parameters of this concept are and how it works. This research tries to scratch the surface of the intricacies of international sign, by looking at the mouthings of a Dutch NGT user in two conversations with Chinese sign language users. These conversations were recorded at a point where either signer was completely unknown to their conversational partner and their language backgrounds had close to no overlap. The aim of this research was to see whether or not and to what extent the spoken English language occurred in the mouthings of international sign. The results are that English was indeed the main language used by the NGT signer in her mouthings (over 70 % of all mouthings), but the use of mouthings (English or otherwise) decreased throughout the conversations, which might indicate that the signer realised mouthings would not be useful in negotiating meaning in this particular situation. This may provide more insight into the way sign language users are able to interfere which aspects of international sign aid understanding in a particular context and which do not.
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