Cinematic vocabulary in sign language

Earlier known as "visual vernicular."

Deaf performer Bernard Bragg first used the term "visual vernicular" in the 1970s to describe cinematic capabilities in sign language.

Cinematic vocabulary is not only unique to motion images in film, but sign language is also noted for its cinematic capabilities.

Neurologist Oliver Sacks compares speech as "narrative structure" to sign as "cinematic structure."

Sign language natives naturally have used visual vernicular techniques consciously or unconsciously (innately, indeed) whether it was in America or Europe for as long it has been.

The video above is a good example of how richly cinematic he (Jay Harris) presented in his story, "Deaf Joke: Deaf King Kong." Though this Deaf joke is classical, passing on generations, he elaborated it into a highly engaging cinematic-like story.

In integration with syntactic elements, sign language employs cinematic techniques in the a four-dimensional environment. Cinematic devices, such as cuts, angles, and zooms, are commonly and richly used in ASL storytelling and poetry.

Just as imagery is used in English poetry and novels, sign language takes the opportunity of manipulating imagery in four-dimensional space-time.

Sign language is not iconic nor what is stereotypically thought. Like speech language, it has its continuum of abstract and onomatopoeia. For example, both visual-manual and vocal-auditory speakers talk in prose which is generally abstract.

On the other hand, a vocal-auditory comedian sometimes talk with some "iconic" sounds, employing the aural space, imitating the sounds, and creating the sound effects. In a similar way, a visual-manual storyteller exploits the visual-spatial sphere in creating visual onomatopeoia.

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Learn how to use cinematic devices in sign language.