Author:Theresia Hofer (University of Bristol)
Paper short abstract:
This paper explores and analyses the use of gestures in the context of so-called "natural sign" and Tibetan Sign Language in Lhasa.
Paper long abstract:
During ethnographic research with deaf Tibetans in Lhasa I was often told deaf and hearing Tibetans share a repertoire of gestures and signs. This repertoire was referred to as "rang-jung lag-da" or "natural" or "spontaneous sign" and in several interviews was estimated to make up approximately 30% of the sign lexicon of the Tibetan Sign Language (TSL), a sign language emergent since the early 2000s.The phenomenon of "natural sign" has also been reported from Nepal and analysed by Green (2014). But what is "natural sign" in Lhasa? I will pursue this large question through an investigation of communicative practices, and within these focusing on gestures, in a distinct set of interactions between deaf and hearing, and between deaf Tibetan communicators in a market, a café, an educational setting and in a home. Studying gestures within and beyond an emergent sign language, as is Tibetan Sign language, allows us to revisit established linguistic and anthropological work on gesture (e.g. Haviland 2007, Kendon 2014, McNeill 2005). How are gestures related to other modalities and sensual modalities in Lhasa? I will explore this question in relation to the topic of "orchestration" proposed by the panel organisers, and the recently suggested theoretical framework of "semiotic repertoires" (Kusters, Spotti, Swanswick and Rapio 2017).
Semiosis as orchestration