Filipino Deaf Video Blogger explains why FSL not PSL

Last year, Philippine President Duterte signed into law the Filipino Sign Language (FSL) Act. The Republic Act 11106 recognizes FSL as the true and living language used by the Filipino Deaf community. However, some people contested the name.

The issue: why use FILIPINO Sign Language, not PHILIPPINE Sign Language?

Glottolog, a comprehensive reference information for the world’s languages, especially the lesser known languages, listed the language used by the Filipino Deaf as Philippine Sign Language.

Screenshot of Glottolog

Also, SIL International, (formerly Summer Institute of Linguistics) lists the language as Philippine Sign Language. They even made an identifier code of ISO 639-3. These recognitions further strengthen the legitimacy of PSL as the right name.

Screenshot of SIL Code for Philippine Sign Language

In 2006, I became one of the editors of Wikipedia, the world’s largest free online encyclopedia. Using Jomanila as my editor name, I was able to create a few notable articles. One of which is “Filipino Sign Language” which I posted in February 15, 2008.

Screenshot of Wikipedia Article History

However in 2012, a certain tyrant and “feeling god” editor/dictator named Kwamikagami vandalized the article name by changing it into PHILIPPINE SIGN LANGUAGE. I humbly asked why the sudden change and explained my side. But he still defended his action simply because he is a “demigod” and he does not care for others’ truth. Because I cannot challenge his abusive “powers”, I just let him be. You may view our heated exchanges here.

Both Glottolog and SIL were used as bases for the Wikipedia article change from FSL to PSL. These supporting sites further strengthen the Wikipedia tyrant’s decision to change the name of the article. So the name got stuck for nearly five years. Minor edits and information were added but the name PSL stayed, until the law was passed. I added the information about the FSL Law in November 2018. Thankfully last December, a Filipino Wikipedia Editor named HaribonEagle927 moved the page to Filipino Sign Language after pointing it out in my talk.

Still, many senior Filipino deaf insist that PSL is the right term because this is what they were accustomed to. Some even invented the name PINOY Sign Language as a better term and created their own Facebook group in 2014 to support this. The group currently has 240 members.

That is why Aldrin Gabriel, a well-respected deaf video blogger and one of the founders/administrators of Filipino Deaf Vloggers: Feed, Awareness and Openness Facebook Group (FDVFAOG) decided to post his explanation about the issue. Aldrin, an alumnus of MCCID, happens to be one of my very best deaf students. He is a very creative artist, a local champion and Philippine representative in the International Skills Competition held in Japan in 2007 and the only Filipino Deaf actor who interpreted the “Mi Ultimo Adios” poem of National Hero Dr. Jose Rizal in Filipino Sign Language.
Ultimo _ smaller file

FDVDAO Group is a closed invite-only Facebook group which now has nearly 4,000 members, majority of whom are deaf and hard-of-hearing. You can only post video blogs in sign language. Personal opinions and views of all the members is highly respected so bashing is not allowed. I was honored to be invited in this group.

You may view his ten-minute video in Filipino Sign Language by clicking on the YouTube link below. Aldrin’s explanation is very simple and straightforward. He even used a paper diagram to illustrate his point clearly. I added the English caption/subtitle for the benefit of those who are unfamiliar with the language. I am sure you will now be convinced that FSL is the correct name after viewing his video.

Cheers to Filipino Sign Language and the Filipino Deaf Community!!!

Note: He corrected the word AMERICA in his paper illustration to AMERICAN. Sorry for the error.

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Did you know that Ma’am Coryell already recognized Filipino Sign Language?

Disclaimer: I am not an official biographer of Rev. Aimee Ada Coryell. I don’t know if she has one. But I certainly am not for one simple reason, I have only been with her for a very few short days. However, here are the significant details that I personally learned from fellowshipping with her.

Ma'am Aimee (left) and her mother
Ma’am Aimee (left) and her mother

After publishing my recent post about Ma’am Coryell and shared it in Facebook, I received an upsurge in my blogsite visits. I even had inquiries about the book and where to get it. So I decided to make a follow up post about this strong-willed American missionary by listing down three most significant trivia I learned about her. Here they are:

Did you know that…

1. … Ma’am Coryell has already observed and recognized the existence of Filipino Sign Language?

Long before the interest about a unique language used by the Filipino Deaf started to gather support in the mid-90s, Ma’am Coryell has already been using them since the early 1970s. As an American missionary and teacher, Ma’am Coryell is a product of the Peace Corp Volunteer Group that was stationed in different parts of the Philippines. She was a native American Sign Language (ASL) user and has taught this to the Filipino deaf.  As a founder of DEAF School in Laguna in late 1960s, she has strictly implemented the use of ASL in classes due to limited sign vocabulary. However, she has noticed that her students have been using signs that are distinctive to them and which has been slightly diluted with the signs used by deaf community living in Manila.

But because the Laguna school is somewhat isolated from the rest of the community, they have developed their own peculiar signs. That is why during the nineties, teachers for the deaf as well as sign language interpreters have categorized the educated deaf according to the community where they belong. Labels like “Laguna Sign”, “Philippine School for the Deaf (PSD) Sign or Manila Sign” and “Bohol Sign” have been widely branded.

Ma’am Coryell has already identified the inherent weakness of the deaf in accessing the written language that is why she included mostly ASL signs in her book “The Basic Way To English for the Deaf”. However, if there are words that she has observed that have signs commonly used by the Filipino Deaf, she incorporated them in her book.

Back Cover Page of the book “The Basic Way of English for the Deaf”

At the back cover of her book, notice the use of “G” hand which is gun shaped and the “T” hand. Both are Filipino Sign Language fingerspell. There are other “FSL signs” that appeared in her book. Although she did not name them as such because Filipino Sign Language has only been coined in mid-90s, she often refers to them as Philippine Signs.

2. … Ma’am Coryell does not know how to speak Tagalog?

I already mentioned this in my previous post so I will just copy-paste it here. Did you know that despite of staying here for many decades, she still cannot speak clear Tagalog? She can only utter perfect “PARA” to tell the jeepney driver to stop. I politely asked her why she never became fluent in Filipino. She confessed that she too has a problem with her ears. She is having difficulty hearing Tagalog pronunciations and diphthongs (sound formed by the combination of two vowels in a single syllable). But what she lacked in learning the local language, she compensated it with her love to the visual language of the Filipino Deaf.

3. … Ma’am Coryell is a speed typist?

On a manual typewriter, the average person types between 38 and 40 words per minute (WPM), what translates into between 190 and 200 characters per minute (CPM). However, professional typists type a lot faster — on average between 50 and 60 WPM. The rate is quite different in a digital keyboard which is being used in laptops and Personal Computers. Ma’am Coryell “boasts” of typing an average of 85 words per minute! Believe me, I’ve seen her do it.

She explained to me that as part of their training as a Peace Corp Volunteer, they are required to acquire and master skills that they can teach to their assigned country. One of them is using the typewriter to create reports, documents and even correspondents. She wants to accomplish things fast and perfect. I believe Ma’am Coryell is the only one who typed the contents of all four of her books.

I added an image of a manual typewriter here for the benefit of new generation of technology users who have never experienced, much less seen what we have been so much accustomed of using. My Dad gifted us one similar to this when we were still in grade school. This is one of his special gifts that we cherished a lot aside from the Kolski piano. He gave us tools to harness our skills. That is why I can type at least 65 words per minute.

If I may be permitted to quote Sir Carl Aguila, a former professor of Dela Salle College (now university), he described her like this,

Rev. Coryell is the closest thing the Philippines has to a “Mother Teresa.”

I couldn’t agree more… 🙂

By the way, for those who want to have a copy of her book, I am sorry that ours are already library copies. I’m not sure that they are still printing these books. But you can try to contact them to inquire through this:

c/o: LAMOIYAN CORPORATION, Km. 15 West Service Road, South Luzon Expressway, Parañaque City, 1700

or the school’s official website at: http://deaffoundationinc.com/contact/

Yay! First 260,000 Visits!

Even if having a blog hiatus for more than two months, I still reached another milestone. Today I celebrate my 260,000th visits since I created this in 2008! Hooray!

English: Filipino Sign Language Font
English: Filipino Sign Language Font (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I now have 365 posts, 967 comments, 23 categories and 752 tags. I also have 199 active followers (up from 40), 51 comment followers and  Facebook readers! I had 280 shares, majority of which are from Facebook.

My top referrer is still Google Search followed closely by Deafread.com. My Facebook links now overtook WordPress tags on the third place, fifth from our school’s official website and sixth from deafvideo.tv.

My top search engine term remains the same. Deaf Icon Marlee Matlin followed by “Dinig Sana Kita“, a Filipino movie about being deaf, Heather Whitestone and Filipino Sign Language. My most popular blog post is still about the most popular Filipino Person With Disability, ex-governor Grace Padaca followed by Spider-man with I-love-you Sign while my most popular video log post (vlog) remains the Philippine National Anthem in Filipino Sign Language. However, my top search for this month is “successful person with disability in the Philippines.”

Thank you very very much to my dear readers for staying patient with me! Now, on to my first 280,000th visitors! 🙂

 

Filipino Sign Language 101

This a re-post from an Inquirer.net article which appeared last December 1. It clearly explains what Filipino Sign Language is all about courtesy of our FSL Guru, Dr. Liza Martinez. Enjoy!!!

What are sign languages?

Common misconceptions:

Signing is universal.

Signing is gesture or only pantomime.

Sign languages are based on spoken languages.

Sign languages have been demonstrated to be true languages at par with spoken languages.  Spoken languages are based on classes of sound, while sign languages are built from visual units. There are over a hundred sign languages currently recognized around the world.

The fundamental unit of structure is the Handshape, along with the other parameters of Location, Movement, Palm Orientation and Nonmanual signal. These are further organized into units which carry meaning, and then, sentences and discourse.

Sign languages have no written systems and are governed by purely visually motivated grammatical devices found in the Nonmanual signals of the face and body.

How do sign languages differ from sign systems?

Sign languages arise and grow naturally across time, within communities of persons with hearing loss. A sign language is not intrinsic to children with hearing loss but is among the set of learned behaviors within the community that is shared, nurtured and passed on.

Sign languages possess their own structure distinct from spoken and written languages.

Sign systems, on the other hand, are considered artificial since they did not arise spontaneously but were purposively created as educational tools in the development of literacy.  Artificial sign systems follow the structure and grammar of spoken and written languages.

What is Filipino Sign Language (FSL)?

Common misconceptions about Filipino Sign Language:

It is based on Filipino.

It is based on English.

It is the “same” as American Sign Language.

Like other legitimate visual languages, FSL has a hierarchy of linguistic structure based on a manual signal supplemented by additional linguistic information from Nonmanual signals of the face and body. It is the ordered and rule-governed visual communication which has arisen naturally and embodies the cultural identity of the Filipino community of signers.

It shows internal structure distinct from spoken and written languages, and other visual languages, and possesses productive processes, enabling it to respond to numerous current and emerging communication needs.

It reflects rich regional diversity in its vocabulary and bears a historical imprint of language change over time since the early beginnings of manual communication in the 16th century in Leyte.

From the lexicostatistical analysis of field data by the Philippine Federation of the Deaf (PFD), possible varieties have so far been proposed: an Eastern Visayas group (Leyte variety) and a Southern Luzon group (Southern Tagalog, Bicol and Palawan varieties).

FSL bears the historical imprint of heavy language pressure from contact with American Sign Language since the start of the century, as well as with Manually Coded English since the 1970s.

In 2004, sign linguist Liza Martinez called attention to the massive and abrupt change of the core vocabulary of FSL, which has resulted from this linguistic pressure. The PFD historical analysis in 2007 used the lexicostatistical approach and verified vocabulary elements of indigenous as well as foreign origin.

Distinguished sign linguist James Woodward has been at the forefront of pioneering research to protect endangered indigenous sign languages (including FSL) and stem the strong tide of influence from foreign sign languages and sign systems.

Who are the Filipino deaf?

These are Filipinos who have hearing loss, including those who lost their hearing early or late in life (late-deafened adults, senior citizens), the hard of hearing, those with other impairments such as the deafblind, those who communicate orally, unschooled deaf, LGBT deaf, deaf indigenous peoples and so on.

Who are  the Filipino Deaf?

They are   deaf Filipinos who use, share, nurture and promote common values (including their visual language and cultural identity) as a claim for human rights and self-determination.

How are FSL and American Sign Language related?

FSL belongs to the branch of visual languages influenced by American Sign Language together with, for example, Thai Sign Language and Kenyan Sign Language. However, the structure of FSL has changed significantly enough for it to be considered a distinct language from American Sign Language.

There is substantial evidence of widespread FSL changes in the following:

Overall form, internal structure (particularly on the inventory of handshapes and accompanying phonological processes)

Sign formation or morphological processes (such as affixation, compounding, numeral incorporation, lexicalization of finger spelling, inflections and others)

Classifier predication, grammatical features and transformational rules, enabling it to generate infinite forms of surface structure from patterns of deep structure

What is the legal basis for House Bill No. 6079?

The bill is known as “An Act Declaring Filipino Sign Language as the National Sign Language of the Filipino Deaf and the Official Language of Government in All Transactions Involving the Deaf, and Mandating Its Use in Schools, Broadcast Media and Workplaces.”

The State is duty-bound internationally and domestically to legislate HB 6079 or other laws written in the same spirit.  International commitments include its ratification of UN core treaties, e.g. the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and the Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, as well as the signing by the Philippines of the 1994 Salamanca Statement on Special Needs Education.

Department of Education (DepEd) policies include the 1997 specific guidelines on the use of FSL  as the medium of instruction for students with hearing impairment. Recent or proposed DepEd policies, such as those for Mother Tongue-based Multilingual Education, the K-12 bill and the Early Years Act, already incorporate principles of full accessibility, inclusion and participation of children with disabilities.

Is this legal recognition of a national sign language taking place  only in the Philippines?

No. Forty-four countries are reported to have various levels of formal recognition for their sign languages, from constitutional status to specific legislation, polices or guidelines.

Sign language recognition continues to be an area of active lobbying with the government for Deaf communities worldwide, which invoke their right to language and communication in all aspects of their lives.

How much research has been done on FSL?

Rosalinda Macaraig Ricasa, the first Filipino hearing sign-language linguist who trained at the renowned Deaf institution, Gallaudet University (Washington), first presented in the late 1980s the observation of a possibly unique sign language in the Philippines, distinct from American Sign Language.

In 1990, Liza Martinez, the second Filipino hearing sign-language linguist who trained at the same Deaf university, conducted the first linguistic inquiry in the country. Since that time, over 80 studies on the structure and use of FSL have been undertaken and published or presented in local and international forums.

These span the fields of sign language linguistics, history, Philippine studies, literature and culture, lexicography and corpus, sign language interpreting, translation studies, language policy, education, early childhood development, human rights and machine intelligence/sign language recognition.

The Philippine Federation of the Deaf was the lead for the National Sign Language Committee, which produced the Status Report on the Use of Sign Language in the Philippines (with principal support from the Gallaudet University Alumni Association through the Laurent Clerc Cultural Fund) and the Practical Dictionaries Project, a four-country study with Vietnam, Cambodia and Hong Kong through the support of  Nippon Foundation.

Trainers for the latter project were Dr. James Woodward,

Dr. Yutaka Osugi (a Deaf sign linguist from Japan) and

Dr. Liza Martinez.

How are deaf children taught in public schools?

The National Sign Language Committee collected and evaluated videotape samples of over 150 hearing teachers in nine regions. The data show typically Sign Supported Speech or Simultaneous Communication (i.e., speaking and signing at the same time). The most frequent use of the spoken language is English, mixed with either Filipino or Cebuano.

Will HB 6079 hinder the development of literacy?

No. Section 4 (1) of the bill states that the reading and writing of Filipino, other Philippine languages and English shall still also be taught.  For a bilingual-bicultual goal in Deaf education, the first language (L1) is a fully accessible visual language (i.e., FSL), and the second language (L2) is a written language.

Shall the legal recognition of FSL as the national sign language conflict with individual autonomy?

No. A fundamental principle of the UNCRPD is individual autonomy, including the freedom to make one’s own choices (Article 3.a).

On education, Article 24.3 emphasizes that “States Parties shall enable persons with disabilities to learn life and social development skills to facilitate their full and equal participation in education and as members of the community. To this end, States Parties shall take appropriate measures, including:

(b) Facilitating the learning of sign language and the promotion of the linguistic identity of the deaf community;

(c) Ensuring that the education of persons, and in particular children, who are blind, deaf or deafblind, is delivered in the most appropriate languages and modes and means of communication for the individual, and in environments which maximize academic and social development.”

Part (b) is a clear directive to facilitate and promote the linguistic identity of the community (i.e., FSL).  Notable is the use of the word “including” in the first paragraph (meaning, it is not exclusive) for the directive to promote this linguistic identity.

Part (c) instructs the State to make sure that schools, in pursuit of their goals and mandates, offer education that is appropriate and maximizes academic and social development.  This appears to give schools latitude in the choice and delivery through the use of various languages,  modes and means.  However, these must satisfy the requirements for fully inclusive education and maximum development.

Article 21.b directs the State to guard the freedom of expression and access to information of persons with disabilities of all forms of communication “of their choice,” while also recognizing and promoting the use of sign languages (21.e).

The most critical point here is State responsibility.  The party to the convention is the Philippine state and not any stakeholder. The State must, therefore, clearly demonstrate that it is carrying out its duty to facilitate and promote the linguistic and cultural identity of the community (Articles 21.b, e; 24.3.b, 30.4) and provide full accessibility through sign language interpretation (Article 9.2.e). Articles 21.b and 24.3.c in no way diminish State commitment to clearly promote and protect sign language and deaf culture.

What will happen if HB 6079 does not become a law?

State responsibility remains clear and does not change. It shall still need to demonstrate how it is implementing Articles 21.b, e,  24.3.b,  30.4 and 9.2.e of the UNCRPD. It shall also be accountable for the nearly two decades of neglect of its commitment to the 1994 Salamanca Statement to ensure access through a national sign language.

Existing policies of the DepEd and the judiciary relating to sign language and accessibility must still be fully implemented according to the principles and obligations of the UNCRPD.

Will the mandatory use of FSL be a barrier to unschooled deaf Filipinos?

No.  Because of its fully visual nature, FSL is the next most efficient and effective interface in communication even with a deaf person who has been isolated and is unable to use the typical sign communication of the community.  Artificial sign systems, which are sound- and alphabet-/spelling-based, shall be incomprehensible to such deaf persons.

(Dr. Liza Martinez is founder and director of the Philippine Deaf Resource Center, a member of the Philippine Coalition on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. She has been actively involved in structural and sociolinguistics research on FSL for the past 22 years.)

 

Yay! First 240,000 Visits!

FSL Wordie Collage of Words

Wow! Wow! Wow! I reached another milestone in my blog experience. After 18 posts since July 27, today I celebrate my 240,000th visits since I created this in 2008! Hooray!

I now have 349 posts, 883 comments, 23 categories, 729 tags, 40 active followers (up from 29), 46 comment followers and 791 Facebook readers. I had 248 shares, majority of which are from Facebook.

My top referrer is still Google Search followed closely by Deafread.com. My Facebook links now overtook WordPress tags on the third place, fifth from our school’s official website and sixth from deafvideo.tv.

My top search engine term remains the the same. Deaf Icon Marlee Matlin followed by “Dinig Sana Kita“, a Filipino movie about being deaf, Heather Whitestone and Filipino Sign Language. My most popular blog post is still about the most popular Filipino Person With Disability, ex-governor Grace Padaca followed by Spider-man with I-love-you Sign while my most popular video log post (vlog) remains the Philippine National Anthem in Filipino Sign Language.

Thank you very very much to my dear readers for staying patient with me! Now, on to my first 260,000th visitors most likely in 2013! 🙂

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