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Preliminary Documentation of Macau Sign Language


Language Macau Sign Language
Depositor Felix Yim Binh Sze, Monica Xiao Wei, Aaron Yiu Leung Wong
Affiliation The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Location China
Collection ID 0338
Grant ID SG0252
Funding Body ELDP
Collection Status Collection online
Landing Page Handle


Summary of the collection

The Macau Sign Language was an undocumented minority language prior to the commencement of this project, and many of its native users were not aware that their own language was a natural language on a par with other spoken and signed languages. This project was the first step towards awareness raising within both the Deaf and hearing community on the need to document and promote Macau Sign Language.

The documented data will be useful for the Macau Deaf community in the following aspects:

(a) Production of sign language materials on Macau Sign Language;

(b) Training of sign language interpreters; and

(c) Promotion of the use of sign language in the larger community and in an inclusive education setting.

The data are also of significant value to sign linguistics as Macau Sign Language is still understudied. They will benefit the sign language research areas such as the tracing of the historical development of Macau Sign Language, the study of sociolinguistic variations, the research on the grammatical properties and the formational properties of lexical signs in Macau Sign Language.


Group represented

As said, the amount of Macau Sign Language users are not large. Among 1200 Deaf/hard of hearing people who live there, over 200 are users of Macau Sign Language. So far there are no published researches on the history of the language and the community. We may add more information after material collections.


Language information

Macau is a small city at the Southern coast of China. Among 1200 Deaf/hard of hearing people who live there, over 200 are users of Macau Sign Language. However, due to the enforcement of inclusive education and lack of resources to support sign language interpretation service, Macau Sign Language has ceased to pass on to the deaf youngsters under the age of 20. This language is expected to disappear from Macau entirely in the coming few decades if no intervention is carried out to preserve it and promote its use.

The Deaf community has a strong wish to remedy the situation by promoting the use of sign language among the Deaf school-children who are struggling in the oralist mainstream education environment. They did make some initial attempts in compiling the lexical signs in Macau Sign Language. So far, the Macau Deaf Association, the only Deaf association in Macau which has obtained a license from the government to provide professional services to the Deaf community, has published three booklets, which contain rudimentary line-drawings of about 600 signs. However, the number is far lower than the actual number and has proven insufficient for sign language interpretation training. Note further that the booklets mainly provide Chinese and English glosses for the entries, without essential linguistic information such as the grammatical categories, non-manual signals, or sample sentences that illustrate how the signs are used in contexts. This is due to the fact that they have never received training on sign linguistics and documentation methods before.


Collection contents

The majority of bundles in this collection are video recordings, due to the visual modality of sign language. We also have transcriptions of some of the data using ELAN in the format of .eaf. In total we collected around 6,500 minutes (108 hours) data from 16 signers of different ages. The videos with transcriptions include:

-500 lexical signs from 14 signers

-Story-telling: Sylvester and Tweety (second story) and the Frog Story from the 14 signers

-Self-narrative: Description of an unforgettable memory from 3 signers (less than 10 minutes each)

-Discussion on the history of Macau Sign Language from 4 signers (50 minutes video, first 15 minutes transcribed)

There are also some videos without transcriptions:

-Gathering in the Macau Deaf Association (50 minutes)

-Description of an unforgettable memory from 11 signers

-Sylvester and Tweety: other 6 stories from 14 signers

-Pear Story from 14 signers


Acknowledgement and citation

Users of any part of the collection should acknowledge SZE Yim Binh Felix as the principal investigator, and WONG Kam Sun, Ao Chi San, U Ka Weng, UN Ho Man, WONG Yiu Leung Aaron and WEI Xiao Monica as the data collectors and researchers. Users should also acknowledge the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme as the funder of the project. All information on contributors are available in the metadata.

To refer to any data from the collection, please cite as follows:

Sze, Felix Y. B. 2014. Preliminary Documentation of Macau Sign Language. Endangered Languages Archive. Handle: Accessed on [insert date here].

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