Shakespeare in ASL

Dennis R. Preston preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU
Tue Jul 6 14:20:39 UTC 1999

One can only hope that the gist of this does not lie in the direction which
I first understood. ASL, of course, is a fully developed, complex human
language (with a phonetics, phonology, morphology [much more complex than
English], syntax, semantics, and pragamtics). The idea that it is
Tonto/Tarzan talk is simply a misunderstanding of the phrase "sign

Further, the idea that learning it (and becoming proficient in it) would
"retard' one's ability to read and/or write English is unfounded (similar,
in fact, to the popular notion that children's acquisition of a second
language might retard their advancement in their first or, more insidious,
that continued development in their first might retard their acquisition of
a second, the apparent foundation of "English Only" and anti-bilingual
education measures roundly condemned by every responsible professional
linguistics organization (e.g., LSA, AAAL).


PS: One nice thing (among many others) about being from the South Midland
(i.e., Hillbilly) area is that nobody wants to translate Shakespeare into
our variety, since the popular press has told us that us shit-kickers
already speak Elizabethan English.

>Just pretend that you are Tonto/Tarzan.  Why do you think that deaf students
>graduate with an average achievement level of 3rd grade, as I was told in my
>graduate Deaf Ed classes at UNF.
>> Is anyone familiar with translation of dramatic works into American Sign
>> Language?  I am assisting a dramatist who is in the process of translating
>> _Twelfth Night_ into ASL and I am looking for works on translation and use
>> of ASL in drama.
>> If you're interested, the website for this project can be found at:

Dennis R. Preston
Department of Linguistics and Languages
Michigan State University
East Lansing MI 48824-1027 USA
preston at
Office: (517)353-0740
Fax: (517)432-2736

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