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Signed English (SE)

This is a system that is often used in schools to teach Deaf children the grammatical aspects of English, such as using word endings and plurals etc. For example, for the word ‘walking’ the sign for ‘walk’ would be used and then the ending of that particular word would be fingerspelt. Past tenses would also be shown along with other features. This is not a language in its own right – it is just a tool for teaching English.

Sign Supported English (SSE)

Sign Supported English is similar to Signed English, although it doesn’t fingerspell or fully represent the endings of words, ‘ing’, ‘ed’, etc. BSL signs are used but follow the format and structure of English. For example, if the phrase “I went shopping today and it was busy” was signed in SSE then the signs would follow the same structure as the sentence. However, if this was signed in BSL then the order of the signs would be slightly different and would most likely follow this format: “Me shopping today…busy”. This would be accompanied by the appropriate facial expressions to show that it was busy.

The balance of BSL signs to English varies greatly depending on the signer’s knowledge of the two languages. A single sign is often differentiated into a number of English words by clearly mouthing the word. To understand SSE you need good lip reading (speech reading) skills, as well as a thorough knowledge of English grammar.

Paget Gorman Sign System
The Paget Gorman Sign System was originated in Britain by Sir Richard Paget in the 1930s and developed further by Lady Grace Paget and Dr Pierre Gorman to be used with children with speech or communication difficulties, such as deaf children. It is a grammatical sign system which reflects normal patterns of English. The system uses 37 basic signs and 21 standard hand postures, which can be combined to represent a large vocabulary of English words, including word endings and verb tenses. The signs do not correspond to natural signs of the Deaf community. The system was widespread in Deaf schools in the UK from the 1960s to the 1980s, but since the emergence of British Sign Language and the BSL-based Signed English in deaf education, its use is now largely restricted to the field of speech and language disorder.


This is a system of communication that uses a vocabulary of “key word” manual signs and gestures to support speech, as well as graphic symbols to support the written word. It is used by and with people who have communication, language or learning difficulties. This includes people with articulation problems (for example, people with cerebral palsy), people with cognitive impairments which might be associated with conditions such as autism or Down syndrome, and their families, colleagues and carers. It can be used to help the development of speech and language in children, or by adults as a means of functional communication for every day use.

Communication using Makaton involves speaking (when possible) while concurrently signing key words. The sign vocabulary is taken from the local deaf sign language (with some additional ‘natural gestures’), beginning with a ‘core’ list of important words. However, the grammar generally follows the spoken language rather than the sign language. Makaton does make limited use of the spatial grammatical features of directionality and placement of signs. As Makaton is used in over 40 countries world wide, Makaton Keyword Signing varies from country to country.

Makaton was developed in the early 1970s in the UK for communication with residents of a large hospital who were both deaf and intellectually disabled. The name is a blend of the names of the three people who devised it: Margaret Walker, Kathy Johnston and Tony Cornforth.

Makaton is run by the MVDP (Makaton Vocabulary Development Project) which controls the copyright to Makaton and depends on the associated income for its funding. This restricts the use of Makaton pictograms to licensed educational programs and home use.

Other, simpler forms of manual communication have also been developed. They are neither natural languages nor even a code that can fully render one. They communicate with a very limited set of signals about an even smaller set of topics and have been developed for situations where speech is not practical or permitted, or secrecy is desired.

Source by Sonia Hollis


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