Justin Li


If a Tree Falls in a Forest...

2008-01-24

... and only deaf people are around, does it make a sound?

I'm working with a deaf person (excuse me, someone hard of hearing) in one of my classes, and he's also in another class of mine. I don't mean to offend; he's actually a pretty cool guy, humorous, and he understands American Sign Language (ASL) and can read lips, so it's not actually too big of a problem.

One coincidence that I noticed is that I could have learned ASL myself. I applied to Rochester Institute of Technology, and since they share the campus with a school for the deaf, a number of students on campus learn ASL. Although I got in, I ended up choosing Northwestern instead, and lost that opportunity.

There are, however, a few things about deaf people I'm curious about.

Do they understand or even like puns? Since puns are inherently sound based, it's hard for someone who can't hear sounds to appreciate them. In fact, it might even be the case that they wouldn't recognize it, although since my friend can speak normally, he would probably have a good idea that those words are formed in similar manners. For people who don't learn how to speak, however, I don't think there's any way to discover a pun except by looking up the phonetic pronunciation of the word in a dictionary. ASL is a meaning based system too, so that doesn't provide any clues.

On that note, how do interpreters signal that the speaker just made a pun? Is there some sign to indicate the double entendre used?

I can't even tune out the speaker and focus on the interpreter; I tried during class. It's so hard to even imagine what being deaf is like.

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