A Nice Gesture by Jeroen Arendsen

A Nice Gesture by Jeroen Arendsen

A mix of posts on gesture, HCI, perception or robots and some personal information.

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Mama Appelsap, Perception and Phonetics


What you might hear in an English song if you are a Dutch native speaker.

In my own research ambiguity in signs is a recurrent issue. Context can change the meaning of signs. And if you are unfamiliar with a sign you may try to project anything that comes to mind on the incoming signal. These songs are great examples of such projections: Dutch listeners who have trouble decyphering the lyrics supplant them with their own ‘Dutch phonetic interpretations’. DJ Timur collects such cases as ‘mama appelsap’ liedjes.

In a way this is quite similar to this ’silly’ translation of the song ‘Torn’ (here) into makeshift ’sign language’. Or perhaps that is only a vague association in my mind and not an actual similarity…

No wait, it wasn’t a translation from song to sign, but the other way around: from a signed news item to a silly voice over…

And even this thing does not really show a lot of similarity to the ‘mama appelsap’ phenomenon, because the ‘translater’ does not supplant the correct phonology (BSL) with the phonology of another language (e.g. English), but he just interprets the signs in the only way he can: through iconic strategies. In a way you could call that the ‘universal language of gesture’ but that would be a bit lame, for there wouldn’t really be anything like a proper phonology at work, I think (not being a real linguist I am unsure). It does show the inherent ambiguity in gestural signs quite nicely, doesn’t it? And how it can be quite funny to choose to ignore contextual clues or even supplant an improper context. Ambiguity and context. A lovely pair.

My apologies to the Deaf readers who cannot bear to see these videos: I think my audience knows enough about signed languages to know that it is not really signed language nor a proper translation.

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