wols0027: October 2011 Archives

Sign Language

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American Sign Language is a vastly different language than most people think. The grammar rules, or syntax, are completely unlike speaking English. Though the syntax is different, sign languages are still considered languages because they follow specific rules just like speaking languages. Being a native speaker of English, it was hard for me to understand American Sign Language at first. I am currently in my second semester and I am still finding myself trying to translate the sentence I have in my head word-for-word in sign language. This is a no-no! A typical sentence in sign language isn't the English "subject-verb" norm. There aren't really any auxiliary verbs in ASL as well as any articles like "the" or "a". Going from English to sign language, this takes awhile to get used to.

When I walked into class of my first semester, two translators were present and I got to see them sign with the teacher. Besides watching their methodical hand gestures, I couldn't help but notice their general posture and facial expressions. These two elements play a crucial part in ASL grammar. My professor stresses how we have to show emotion in all of our sentences. We even have to do eyebrow exercises sometimes if we aren't focusing (eyebrows up, eyebrows down, eyebrows up, eyebrows down...)!!! These facial expressions in any speaking language could be thought of as over-dramatic but in ASL as well as any other sign language, these extralinguistic gestures are very important.

There are many myths about sign language. One of the main myths is when children are born deaf to hearing parents, people might think that they cannot acquire language like hearing children do. However, this is false. Deaf children can acquire language like anyone else. In fact, the parts of the brain that process spoken language are just used to process sign language. Also, children that are born deaf go to through the same developmental stages as hearing children do. For instance, when hearing children start babbling, deaf children babble with their hands. Here is a video of a deaf parent signing with her deaf child...very cute!



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In the 2001 film Rat Race, a group of people are picked by another group of millionaires to race for a large sum of money. As the group departed on their journey, racing down the halls of the hotel, one of the characters suddenly stops and starts sleeping in the middle of the hallway! He does this throughout movie, falling asleep during important parts of the race. At the end of the movie, he ends up being the first one at the money safe, with his key in the lock, only to fall asleep as he was about to unlock the door! The other members of the group catch up to him, resulting in a big fight for the money.

Picture of character in Rat Race:

Though the film pokes fun at this character's disorder, narcolepsy is nothing to make fun of. Narcolepsy is characterized by the fast and usually unexpected arrival of sleep. This sleep can last a few seconds to even an hour. Imagine not being able to control when you fall asleep. You could sleep through the most basic of everyday activities such as being at work, going to class, cooking dinner at night, or even going to the bathroom!

Cataplexy is also associated with narcolepsy and is the complete loss of muscle tone. This means that the muscles go limp and one can fall very easily. People with ordinary sleeping habits are afflicted by cataplexy too during their REM sleep. However, because these people are normally in bed, cannot tell. People with narcolepsy, because they sleep at random times, are more prone to falling simply because they could fall asleep while standing up.

Narcolepsy can occur if there are any abnormalities in genetic information. Orexin, a hormone, plays an important role in wakefulness. Abnorallites in the brain cells that produce this hormone can result in narcolepsy. People that have this strange condition can take medications to help to regulate orexin and wakefulness, though it may not work for everyone.

As I was looking up information about this condition, I came across a blog written by a narcoleptic woman. She posted that," Everyday is such a struggle for me... no one understands what I am going through. Even my husband gets so frustrated that I am practically disabled and cannot do many things that normal people do... I feel very lonely and sad... I wish I can be alert and refreshed after sleeping just 8 hours like other normal people". I cannot even fathom not being able to control when I do and when I don't want to sleep. Narcolepsy sounds like a tough condition to deal with, not just for the one afflicted with it but also their family and friends. I thought it was hard staying up all night studying, only to get a few hours of sleep for the next day. Now that I know what narcolepsy is and what it entails, I feel lucky to be a normal sleeper.


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This page is an archive of recent entries written by wols0027 in October 2011.

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