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SIGN NEGOTIATION

Sign negotiation is what interpreters and consumers do when neither knows an ASL sign for the concept in question, or when one uses a sign that is the sign used by the other.

Among seasoned practitioners and consumers, there are generally agreed upon, accepted, and acceptable ways to negotiate signs.

Negotiated signs are created ad hoc; once the occasion has passed, so has the invention - no matter how wonderful you may have thought it to be (smile).  The consumer and the interpreter have not spontaneously augmented American Sign Language.  No, no, no.  Once the occasion necessitating your joint venture is done, so is your sign.  Like a home sign, your ad hoc sign is not imbued with a rightful and forever home in American Sign Language lexicon.

NEGOTIATION

Yahoo's reference dictionary online (retrieved 20090717) defines negotiation as "the successful act of negotiating."  We hate that, don't you?  So, we look to negotiate and it says: "To confer with another or others in order to come to terms or reach an agreement."  There it is.

As an aside for readers who are thinking of another oft-used meaning, we do not use the word as: "To transfer title to or ownership of ... "  No, siree.  No one here suggests any transferring of any ownership.  To the contrary.

On second look at the definition that interpreters use, we notice that confer and agreement stand out.  What is the take-away for us?  One take-away is this: Proclamation (announce officially ... declare) is not close, in behavior or outcome, to negotiation.  (If you find yourself in a mental rendition of the "yeah-but" dance, please feel free to jump ahead to In Practice, below.)

If, right about now, you would wager that we'd follow with something about deference and authority ...

Deference to Authority

 ... you would win.  (smile)

Most interpreters are not native signers.  This puts us fairly behind the eight ball if we do anything - or look like we are doing anything or like we're thinking of doing something - that smacks of presenting interpreters as ASL authorities.  HA.  We can just fold that idea up and put it into your interpreter tote.  And, when we arrive home, we toss it where it belongs.

What makes native users authorities?  They are authorities because they own it; it is theirs.  Native users get to decide what's acceptable and what's not because the language belongs to them.  It is really that simple.  When we as interpreters keep to our place; fulfill our duty and role, we are professional and appropriate.  When we proclaim rather than negotiate, we are interlopers.

WHO'S RIGHT?

Because we are human, it is easy for us to get all caught up in the question of who's right, or wrong.  Making right-or-wrong judgments wastes precious energy and takes us completely off course.  When we say authority (back to Yahoo, again), we mean "an accepted source of expert information or advice."  Moot is the question of whether a person is or is not correct.  When faced with authority, which is not in our hands (at it were), we have simply to defer to it.  Trust us here: There is splendor in surrender.  (smile)

Protologisms and Neologisms

A protologism (pro TAH' low jizm) is a suggestion of a word, a just-thought-up and brand-spanking-newly created idea of a word.  Maybe one, or three, or twenty-seven people in close association know the protologism and use it within the group, but the word has not progressed much beyond that.

A neologism (nee AH' low jizm) is a newly coined word that may be in the process of entering a lexicon, or its place may have been recently established. 

Examples of protologisms that survived long enough and came into such wide usage as to become neologisms include: wannabe; googling; homophobia; plus-size; and chortle (Lewis Carol has been called "the king of protologisms").

You can see from this brief flirtation with linguistics, how much time it must endure, and how many people must use it, before a negotiated sign might hope to become a neologism.

In Theory

Professional interpreters do not accept an assignment for which they are unqualified, and they do their homework - they prepare:

subject word lists, and ASL and English dictionaries, are consulted;
information about likely or known participants (audience/presenters) is obtained;
informants (hearing and deaf associates, mentors, experienced interpreters, et al) are tapped;
citation forms are at the fore; initialized signs are at the rear;
languages are stripped and concepts embraced;
rules of grammar (a noun is a noun; a verb, a verb) and syntax are recalled;
likely regional, generational, contextual and other variations are anticipated;
descriptor signs and classifiers are queued;
skills in use of non-manual markers, space, and movement are refreshed; and
the interpreter is poised to negotiate ad hoc signs.

During the assignment, the occasion arises:

you fingerspell the English word;
request or offer an ad hoc sign;
a deaf consumer says no and offers the ASL sign or a preferred ad hoc; and
all parties agree.

The ad hoc sign has been negotiated and is in play.  A very nice job, done by all.

In Practice

In practice, interpreters must do what they, as professional practitioners, are expected to do; yet, the deaf consumer may not be prepared to negotiate a sign, or may not be interested in doing it, or for whatever reason may not be up to the task.  Perhaps there is more than one deaf consumer involved, and they disagree.  Now what?

Here's what we have learned through experience and from mentors, and teachers:

In the case of consumers' disagreement among themselves, the answer is simply to resist the impulse to wrest authority from folks who rightfully have it and are using it.  We wait until they decide and then we comply.

In the case of the potential partner in negotiation who doesn't: We tried.  We did what we were supposed to have done.  When a consumer does not exercise authority that is theirs, the interpreter gets to use it - on an ad hoc basis.

NOTE: If a consumer does not act on authority because s/he has not been previously informed and empowered, we will look for an opportunity to appropriately facilitate that process.

Resources for Technical Signs

1.  Technical Sign Interview Series (videos)

In the Technical Sign Interview series, from the National Center on Deafness and the Western Region Outreach Center, deaf professionals discuss their occupations.  Interviewers are native ASL users and are careful to elicit the "deaf way" of describing complex tasks and activities associated with the subject's career.  The films target audience includes advanced signers.  Each video is about 30-to-45 minutes in length.  There are no captions or voiceovers.  In this series, deaf people discuss technical information.  Click here for purchase information.

Tape 01: Computer Programming -- Programmer Bobbi Maucere
Tape 02: Graphic Arts -- Printer Lisa Chahayed
Tape 03: Health Occupations -- Fred Lovitch
Tape 05: General Contractor -- Anthony Ivankovic
Tape 06: Business Accounting -- Accountant David Staehle
Tape 08: Anthropology -- Professor Dr. Simon Carmel
Tape 09: Theatre Arts -- Instructor Patrick Graybill
Tape 10: Human Resources -- Personnel Specialist David Strom
Tape 15: TV & Film Production -- Asst. Coordinator Barry White
Tape 16: TV & Film Production -- Director of Photography - Mide Montagnino
Tape 17: Organic Chemistry -- Professor Dr. Walter Trafton
Tape 18: Home Economics (Home-Based Business) -- Grace Steingieser
Tape 19: Math -- Instructor Keith Mousley
Tape 20: Math & Computer Science -- Instructor Harvey Goodstein
Tape 22: Electrical Mechanical Technician -- Instructor David Johnston
Tape 23: Psychology -- Instructor J. Matt Searls
Tape 26: Architecture -- Architect Mark Quinones

2.  

... to be continued.

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This page was edited: 09/15/2009
This page has been visited Hit Counter times since: July 17, 2009.
TerpTopics is a trademark and service mark of TerpTopics, LLC. © 2008; 2009. All rights reserved.

TerpTopics™ is an independent entity; as such does not claim or attempt to claim, represent, or imply by any means whatsoever that it is associated with any other entity that may or may not offer services, goods, or information of interest to interpreter, Deaf, or student communities.  The opinions expressed here those of TerpTopics unless otherwise stated.  Please keep in mind that, while every effort is made to present correct, appropriate, and reasonable information that is based on our experience, anecdotal experiences of others, or developed during the general course of study and professional development, we do not represent TerpTopics as having cornered the market on wisdom (heck, no!) or experience; one reason why links to several other good and reliable resources are made available throughout this site, and we hope that earnest seekers of knowledge will take advantage of them.

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