Skip navigation

Basic Guide for Communication in Catalan Sign Language

2.2. The Concept of Signs

All languages are made up of arbitrary signs that allow establishing a fixed relation between signifier and signified, inherent in all human languages. Words are the convention through which we can refer to a concept without it being present, through which we can move in time to refer to things of the past or future, transmit them to new learners of a language, etc. Signs or signals (synonyms) are the names given to this convention in sign languages. Visual-gestural languages contain semantics, arbitrarity, movement, tradition, and a series of characteristics exclusive to human languages. This is why in Catalan a distinction is made between ‘llengua de signes”, the correct term, and “llenguatge de signes”, which is not accepted by the Deaf Community, given that the latter is used to refer to the general ability to communicate of both humans and other animals. Thus, it is possible to talk about the language of the bees by saying “llenguatge de les abelles” but not “llenguatge català” to refer to the Catalan language.

Words making up spoken languages are essentially arbitrary when considering signifier-signified relations, but we can also find analogies, or iconicity, as in the case of onomatopoeias, words that imitate or suggest the source of the sound they describe. These relations of iconicity are more common in sign languages due to the visual-gestural modality of the language. Sign iconicity prevails in visual languages since mimicry is useful within the space used when signing. However, iconic signs do not represent all the properties of the represented object, but rather specific traits which users commonly perceive; thus they are also conventional representations of a common code. This explains why some signs, although closely related to the icon, can be incomprehensible for those who do not know the language.

UAB - Universitat Autnoma de Barcelona UABCEI - Campus D'Excel-Lncia Internacional

Creative Commons License
This work is under a Creative Commons licence.