Western ZEI: Iranian Sign Language in Kermanshah
|Zaban Eshareh Irani (ZEI)
|Razi University of Kermanshah
|Landing Page Handle
Summary of the collection
Zaban Eshareh Irani (ZEI) is a sign language used by Iranian deaf community. The documentation of Zaban Eshareh Irani is the first language documentation program on the endangered language of Iranian deaf community. Many of the signers in this project were not aware that their own language was a natural language on a par with other spoken and signed languages.
The documented data will be useful for the Iranian Deaf community in the following aspects:
- Raising the awareness among hearing and deaf people of sign language, and helping the deaf community learn not only to give up their indigenous language but also have more respect for their language.
- Promotion of the use of sign language and recognizing it as a fully-fledged language
- Training of sign language interpreters
The data may be of value to linguists who are willing to work on syntactic, phonological, morphological, sociolinguistic and other features of Zaban Eshareh Irani.
The deposit includes records of native signers of Zaban Eshareh Irani living in Kermanshah which is a city in the west of Iran. The recordings start with fingerspelling of the ZEI alphabet in which the signers fingerspell alphabet letters of ZEI. Then, there is an elicitation task including items for concepts such as color, food, animals, etc. Subsequently, the participants are asked to watch short movies and then they are asked to retell the story. Later, the participants are asked to have conversations in pairs guided by a deaf moderator (Sara Karami). The project team consisted of Yassaman Choubsaz, Sara Siyavoshi and Farzaneh Soleinmanbeigi. The work was also supported by Ardavan Guity. Onno Crasborn was the project coordinator, provided instructions and training and handled some of the technical issues.
The project was resumed after the outbreak of COVID-19 and 18 more signers were recorded having conversations in pairs in 9 sessions. Overall, the videos provided here have been recorded in two different time periods (phases). The first 18 sessions which are described above have been recorded in 2019 and early 2020, and the remaining 9 sessions are recorded in 2022 after the outbreak of COVID-19.
This collection represents Kermanshahi users of Zaban Eshareh Irani, based on a sample of 54 signers. The Zaban Eshareh Irani users in this collection are divided into three different age group (young- middle aged and old) so that it could reflect the differences of generations in terms of signs. The consultants in each session are of the same age and gender. However, this age and gender classification was not considered in the second phase of this project.
Kermanshah province is located in the west of Iran and it consists of 14 towns (Shahrestan). The population of Kermanshah is 1,952,000 people, with the deaf community of 5,949 people.
The hearing family of deaf children normally do not use Zaban Eshareh Irani but support lip-reading, speech therapy, and cochlear implant if it is financially possible for them. With no language, the children are sent to schools where the education system and the emphasis on oralist approach have adverse effects on the academic development of children considering the delay in their acquisition of language.
There are only 3 schools for deaf students in Kermanshah: two high schools and one elementary school. There are no other schools for the deaf in other towns of the whole province, instead, deaf children sent to schools for special needs children with only one class dedicated to the deaf and the rest consisting of the students of other disability groups. The deaf child (of a hearing parent) can acquire Zaban Eshareh Irani if he/she is exposed to Zaban Eshareh Irani through having long enough communications with peers, whose level of proficiency may vary. However, sending them to ordinary schools or special schools with one class dedicated to the deaf would minimize their chance of acquiring Zaban Eshareh Irani from peers.
There are two local community centers in Kermanshah where the deaf community meets each other for cultural events or religious occasions. The Deaf community of Kermanshah is a rich community in terms of culture and tradition. They meet each other every Thursday. Naturally, since the coronavirus pandemic the gatherings are cancelled but before the pandemic, they used to gather for religious and national ceremonies. Many things had changed after the outbreak of the COVID-19. To be more specific, the Deaf Center was unfortunately closed and gatherings of the deaf community were limited.
In their gatherings, their families are also invited so that they can see how well the deaf community communicate with each other using the sign language. Some craft classes such as knitting and enameling (the art of painting and decorating metal) are also held in the Deaf Center.
The videos in the first phase of this collection were recorded in the Deaf Center of Kermanshah. The research team was very fortunate for having Sara Karami as the moderator of all tasks in all sessions (except the first two sessions). She was a member of the community and she grew up using Zaban Eshareh Irani . She also helped the project by finding consultants and making contacts with them. The videos in the second phase of the collection were recorded in a language school. After recording and annotating some of the data, it can be said that they generally show the Zaban Eshareh Irani speakers of Kermanshah use the same signs that other deaf signers of Iran use and the difference is not significant.
Zaban Eshareh Irani (ZEI) is a sign language used by Iranian deaf community spoken in Kermanshah province, which is located in the west of Iran and it consists of 14 towns (Shahrestan). The population of Kermanshah is 1,952,000 people, with a deaf community of 5,949 people. The Kermanshahi variant of Zaban Eshareh Irani is comprehensible to other signers of Zaban Eshareh Irani in Iran, with minor differences in some signs, some finger-spelling letters and some mouth pattern, which may be affected by Kurdish, the local spoken language in Kermanshah.
This deposit is important because Zaban Eshareh Irani is an undocumented sign language. The recordings show that Kermanshahi variant of Zaban Eshareh Irani is totally comprehensible to other signers of Zaban Eshareh Irani in Iran. However, three minor differences were observed:
- Some signs are different from the common Zaban Eshareh Irani in Tehran (the capital city of Iran) which has been studied the most. For example, the sign for “man”, “news”, “village”, “cheating”, “exam” and “train”, “math” and a few other signs.
- A few alphabet letters are finger-spelled differently from the common Zaban Eshareh Irani in Tehran. What is surprising is that more than one sign alphabet for some letters was observed in videos. A possible explanation for this might be that the deaf signers in Kermanshah have less been to deaf school than those in Tehran. Consequently, since there was no one to teach them Baghcheban alphabet (which is a manual alphabet system accepted and used by Zaban Eshareh Irani signers of Iran), they had learned these signs from each other.
- The mouth patterns of some signs were different from those of the common Zaban Eshareh Irani in Tehran. It can be due to its being affected by Kurdish language, which is the local spoken language in Kermanshah.
As Zaban Eshareh Irani is a sign language, all files are video recordings. The data includes 38.86 hours hours of tasks (alphabet, fingerspelling, elicitation of signs, retelling of a story, conversations), 1 hour of gathering, and 1 hour of ELAN, translated and glossed into English and Persian. More specifically the videos without transcriptions include:
- signing the alphabet by 36 signers in 18 sessions
- fingerspelling of 23 words by 36 signers in 18 sessions
- 100 lexical signs from 36 signers in 18 sessions
- story telling: the pear story and the story of kindness from 36 signers in 18 sessions
- 1 hour of gathering in the Deaf Center
- Conversation between two pairs in 27 sessions (total number of signers :54)
The videos with transcriptions include:
- conversation between signer 11 and signer 12 (6 minutes)
- conversation between signer 13 and signer 14 (7 minutes)
- conversation between signer 15 and signer 16 (13 minutes)
- conversation between signer 17 and signer 18 (6 minutes)
- conversation between signer 17 and signer 18 (1 minute)
- conversation between signer 21 and signer 22 (8 minutes)
- conversation between signer 25 and signer 26 (6 minutes)
- conversation between signer 27 and signer 28(4 minutes)
- conversation between signer 31 and signer 32 (6 minutes)
- conversation between signer 35 and signer 36 (3 minutes)
Acknowledgement and citation
Users of any part of collection should acknowledge Yassaman Choubsaz as the principal investigator and data collector. Users should also acknowledge Yassman Choubsaz, Sara Siyavoshi, and Farzaneh Soleimanbeigi as researchers. Please note that the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme is the funder of the project. Any other colleague who contributed to this project as an interpreter, data collector, translator, or in any other way should be acknowledged by name.
To refer to any data from the collection, please cite as follows:
Choubsaz, Yassaman. 2023. Western ZEI: Iranian Sign Language in Kermanshah. Endangered Languages Archive. Handle: http://hdl.handle.net/2196/00-0000-0000-0014-09EB-A. Accessed on [insert date here].