Shakespeare in ASL

Beverly Flanigan flanigan at OAK.CATS.OHIOU.EDU
Wed Jul 7 21:41:27 UTC 1999

For some reason, this 3rd grade level myth persists; I've heard it from my
undergrads in both Education and Hearing and Speech.  According to one
source (G. Yule, _The Study of Language_, 1996), Signed English, SEE, and
oralism were encouraged instead of ASL because they were easier for hearing
parents and others to learn, seemed more like "real language," and prepared
students to read and write English--despite the fact that they take much
longer to produce and interpret and therefore in practice result in
incomplete or imprecise utterances.  That ASL might be a better and more
efficient primary language, with written English taught as a second
language (as Dennis implies below), has apparently been only recently
understood by educators, though the deaf community has known this for a
long time.

At 05:53 PM 7/6/99 -0700, you wrote:
>In Deaf Ed classes, we studied the basics of ASL, Signed English, and
Signing Exact English.  Of these, only SEE [has] morphology, but not even
it made a pretense of phonology,, much less phonetics.  All the languages
studied had syntax, semantics, and pragmatics, of course.  The morphology
of ASL seems more complex than English to the naive English learner because
ASL is a "dialect" from French, not English.  I have yet to hear an
explanation of why students who learn ASL are such low achievers when the
few students who are fortunate enough to learn SEE do as well as if not
better than their hearing classmates.  Unfortunately, it is politically
incorrect to research such a point, and we are left with only anecdotes.
>> 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
>> language."
>> 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).
>> dInIs
>> 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
>> >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
>> >> _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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