The tetragrammaton and signed languages

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Joined: Mon Jul 09, 2018 10:43 am

The tetragrammaton and signed languages

Postby PKing » Mon Jul 09, 2018 11:09 am

Hi folks,

Just wondering if anyone has ever come across discussion of pronunciation of the tetragrammaton that would be relevant for signed languages?

There are a variety of ways of rendering names in sign languages - for example, using your fingers to spell the letters of the name (perhaps while mouthing the sounds), or alternatively using an action that evokes something about the person being named. Some approaches incorporate both - the initial letter of the name and an evocative action.

Of course for YHWH there could be even further options - such as fingerspelling 'Lord', fingerspelling (part of) YHWH and mouthing 'Lord', blending the handshapes for the letters of YHWH and the meaning of 'Lord'...

I'm wondering what people think about fingerspelling the letters Y-H-W/V-H in a Bible translation, and the acceptability in a multicultural context. (I know for example that the Catholic church has explicitly requested that the tetragrammaton is not used in written translations for liturgical use) Do you think fingerspelling the tetragrammaton could be considered parallel to *writing* the consonants - as it is a visual stimuli - and thus no different from looking at a Hebrew text with the consonants of the divine name written on it (and thus 'ok'); or is it more parallel to *uttering* the divine name, as it is a performance (and thus not 'OK')? I guess behind the question behind what I'm asking here is about what are our best guesses as to why people stopped pronouncing the divine name, and no longer do so, and whether that motivation would also preclude signing the name.

Can anyone help me with any insights from Rabbinic discussion or contemporary practice in Israeli sign language (or other sign languages) that would be helpful as I research this further?

Thank you so much for your help - I hope this question fits closely enough with the remit of the group, and please forgive the layers of assumptions beneath my questions!

Phil King

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