Cochlear Implants: The Death of Sign Language?

Dennis R. Preston preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU
Fri Nov 15 14:21:02 UTC 2002

Other factors:

1) Signers who sign ASL (or some other version of sign) do not know
the grammar of English. Hearing is only a first step for them.
(Signers who uses "Signed English" may have some advantage.)

2) BUT. Signers do not have a sound-based phonological system (and
the degree to which sign phonology will transfer to acoustic/auditory
phonology is unknown). In short, an implant will let you hear
"noise," but, although noise is a prerequisite for an
acoustic/auditory phonology, it is only the foundation. In other
words, signers who can "suddenly hear" may be at even more of a
language learning disadvantage than a hearing adult learner of a
second language.


PS: Of course I have simplified (e.g., as regards a motor theory of
speech perception), and I have not taken sociocultural factors intro
consideration at all (as others have already done).

In a message dated 11/14/2002 9:35:17 PM Eastern Standard Time,
philip at CS.BRANDEIS.EDU writes:

>  Also, those who are dumb (is there a more PC term for one
>  who cannot
>  speak?) will continue to use sign language...

Also, those who can't afford the technology, particularly in
developing countries...

Dennis R. Preston
Professor of Linguistics
Department of Linguistics & Germanic, Slavic,
      Asian & African Languages
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824-1027
e-mail: preston at
phone: (517) 353-9290

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