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How does one present spoken dialogue as a secondary language to signed speech?

I want to write a novel and I was thinking of including a deaf character. I want to know the best way to express what the deaf person is signing because I don't think using speechmarks would be appropriate.

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migrated from english.stackexchange.com Mar 13 '12 at 9:58

This question came from our site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts.

marked as duplicate by JSBձոգչ, John Smithers, Neil Fein Mar 13 '12 at 16:40

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I think this should be on writers.se, but I suggest using a different typeface (italics if you've nothing better). –  FumbleFingers Mar 13 '12 at 0:10
    
+1 for suggesting italics. –  cornbread ninja Mar 13 '12 at 0:13
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Another alternative would be to use different speech demarcation symbols - put the signings <between characters like this, for example>. –  FumbleFingers Mar 13 '12 at 2:39
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Science fiction authors deal with unusual forms of communication (e.g. telepathy) all the time. They usually handle it by using italics. –  Pitarou Mar 13 '12 at 3:05

3 Answers 3

We just addressed this recently, and the excellent answer suggested was guillemets. « and »

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guillemets, as suggested by Lauren Ipsum, is a good option. Another one, that would appeal to me in reading it, would be to not use any speech marks:

"Do you like my use of language?" he questioned.

I wish you would sign more, she signed back.

The reason is that this sounds more silent to me - I read this, and get the silence and the occasional slap as the person signs back.

Of course, this would not always work, but it would make me think each time I read it, how this was being communicated.

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You would simply treat this as you would any other foreign language. The fact that the language is communicated by signing rather than speaking is immaterial.

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