Project Origin

The TSL videos on this website derived from the interview sessions and chats I had with elderly deaf people in 2008. My purpose in interviewing these elderly deaf people at the time was to trace roots of dated TSL lexicon and etymology. Perhaps my honest video documentation of TSL can serve as a corpus for future TSL studies.

Having the goal in mind, I set out to find deaf interviewees in 2008 who were over 70 years old at the time, have received deaf education during the Japanese colonial period, and communicated mainly through sign language. The conversations were all conducted in TSL, and the use of written languages was actively avoided. Interview topics mostly evolved around the daily lives and experiences of the interviewees so as to gather lexicon from conversations with the interviewees as much as possible.

The interviewees I found and their ages at the time are respectively: Married couple Tsai Yi-Hsing (73) and He Chun-Gui (71), Lee Jong-Hua of Dajia, Taichung (77, deceased), Lee Yang-Hao of Baihe, Tainan (77), Chen Mao-Sen of Taipei, originally from Donggang, Pingtung (80, deceased).

In order to comprehensively display the language used by the interviewees to the greatest extent, instead of listing words as most sign language online dictionaries do, this website introduces TSL in sentences. It is my perception that sentences better represent the manifestation of TSL as it involves both lexicon and grammar.

This is a gentle reminder to anyone who finds this website useful. All contents found on this website, lexicon and grammar included, are based on the interviews that took place then. Therefore, words and phrases that did not come up in the conversations then will not be found on this website. You may notice that some regularly used words and phrases in today’s sign language are absent, or that the grammatical context I compiled makes no mention of the commonly accepted grammar found in sign language learning materials. However, it is not an indication of disbelief or disapproval of the common study. The absence of certain contents on the website is simply because those were not in the videos I documented then.

It is important to note that these videos are not intended to prove that this is standard TSL in its originality. More precisely speaking, these documentaries are meant to display “the manifestation of the language used by certain deaf people in certain parts of Taiwan during a certain period of time”. As a language that takes a visual-manual modality, sign language is very regionally differentiated. In Taiwan, a rather small island, commonly used sign language lexicon varies from North to South. That said, these video documentations are not out-and-out but merely parts of TSL. It would be inappropriate to consider the language used by the interviewees as standard TSL.

The videos currently on display are only the tip of an iceberg among all the interviews I have recorded. This my first attempt to share the findings of my study, and there will be more contents shared on this website in the future. Feedback and opinions are very welcome as I hope this website can become useful to those who are interested in TSL.

Signs for subtitle

∩ suggests that left hand and right hand are signing different words at the same time.

/ indicates a short pause in mid speech. It is equivalent to a comma.
[ ] is used to describe facial impressions, mouth shapes, actions and other signals expressed other than hand signals.

++ indicates the repetition of a word or action.

@( ) is used for spatial referencing. e.g., @(3)70 means that “70” is meant to describe the third person noun.
@ is a classifier used to describe the shape of an object.

e.g. @house wall is the signaling of the “house wall” mentioned previously using flat palms and the entire arm.
# indicates writing in the air, palm or on any flat surface.
! indicates the signaling of a word based on the appearance of a certain object or action. It is not defined as a fixed vocabulary.
e.g. ! shoe oil