Shakespeare in ASL

Dennis R. Preston preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU
Thu Jul 8 11:47:14 UTC 1999

This is surely an exaggeration and too severlely suggests the linguistic
ignorance of chairs of deaf ed grad programs. In many places (a working
group at UMass-Amherst, for example), therapists, deaf ed people, and
linguists are working together to look at these problems and others (with a
nice give-and-take, by the way). Walt Wolfram worked for years at the U of
DC to establish principled linguistic research knoweldge among speech anhd
hearing therapists, including those who work with the deaf.
Unfortunately, as progress has been made in linguistic research (making it
"harder"), it has been easier and easier for people with "real world"
problems to ignore it. Let's hope that us linguists take a lesson from such
persistent misconceptions as the one Beverly mentions and do moore to make
the results of our work better know, particualrly among those for whom it
is most important.
It don't do no good to complain about being ignored if you don't
(comprehesibly) toot your own horn.


 >Probably one reason that the alleged myth persists is that chairs of
graduate programs in Deaf Education give it to their graduate students as
an acknowledged fact of life.
>> 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
>> >> 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
>> >> 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
>> 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
>> >> >> 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
>> >

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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