22 June 2006


by Cecily
This morning I was interviewing a bunch of 14-year-olds. My research project is about phonology (yes, of a sign language. Maybe I'll talk more about that later). But my data collection is basically just getting kids to talk about stuff. During the part I was doing this morning, they were in a group looking at pictures and telling me the signs for various things.

The point of the group was to see if they would agree or disagree about vocabulary and/or sign production.

And they did. So it was a very productive session, in which I got exactly what I was hoping for.

And a lot more that I was really not hoping for at all. Some of the vocabulary items I was trying to elicit were kinship terms. Or for those of you who complain about linguistics people, "names for family members". Mother, father, sister, brother, etc.

A friendly dispute arose over whether a certain sign for "father" is a REAL Rwandan sign or if it is an ASL sign. This led immediately into a general discussion about everyone's family members, and who was alive, and who was not, and when and why they had died.

Of that group of 4 kids, none of them have 2 parents. One has a dead mother and the other three have dead fathers. One died of AIDS last year, two died in the 1994 genocide, and one died in a 2000 uprising. All of the students also listed multiple other family members who died either during the 1994 genocide or since. And I got some graphic descriptions of what "genocide" means, and the difference between that and other violent deaths which are not related to genocide.

So I learned the Rwandan sign for "genocide". It's the same as ASL for "electricity".

These aren't the 14-year-olds, I just wanted to close with something cheerful.

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