Deaf News: London’s DCAL centre casts doubt on ‘fake’ signer’s claims of schizophrenic signing

Posted on December 13, 2013

The Deafness Cognition and Language Research Centre, which is based in London, has cast doubt on the Mandela memorial signer’s claim of schizophrenic signing at the service.

Dr Jo Atkinson, who is a clinical psychologist and researcher at the centre, and is a Deaf sign language user herself, said in this media release:

The disruption of sign language in people with schizophrenia takes many forms but this does not look like anything I have seen in signers with psychosis.

It is not possible to make a judgement about whether or not someone has schizophrenia if they do not share your own language or based on film-clips, so this is not a comment on Mr Jantjie’s mental state.

There are features of signed languages, such as rhythm in the movement of the hands, the use of facial action and eyegaze, which are remarkably similar across the world’s signed languages.

Therefore, it is possible for a deaf person to deduce that signing is odd, even when they don’t use that particular sign language. 

There were many features of Mr Jantjie’s signing that do not chime with the typical presentation of disordered signing caused by a psychotic episode.

Atkinson also said that signers with schizophrenia usually have “larger, more expansive, use of facial expression and signing space,” while the Mandela signer signed “without facial expression and in a regimented and contained way.”

She  concluded:

It did not look like disordered signing, it looked more like someone who is not a fluent signer making it up as they went along.

Whether or not he was faking or is simply delusional about his interpreting ability, the ANC should have picked up on his poor quality signing earlier.

This highlights the importance of monitoring of the sign language profession around the world.

Read the whole media release here:

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