American Sign Language---query

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Wed Apr 13 03:37:50 UTC 2005

At 10:25 PM -0400 4/12/05, Benjamin Zimmer wrote:
>On Tue, 12 Apr 2005 15:44:39 -0500, Cohen, Gerald Leonard <gcohen at UMR.EDU>
>>Is American Sign Language (ASL) really a  "complete and natural language"
>>as, e.g. the U of Minnesota says, or is it merely the signing skills
>>(however valuable)  with which to communicate a natural language?
>>My campus' administration has turned to the Foreign Language section for
>>insight on this matter, and I know virtually nothing about sign language.
>>I assume ASL is *not* a natural language but am open to persuasion on
>>this point.
>>This all has to do with whether my campus should offer foreign-language
>>credit for ASL, or perhaps something else like free-elective credit
>I expect Larry Horn will be chiming in on the topic in the near future, as
>he was instrumental in getting Yale to accept ASL for the foreign language
>requirement.  In the meantime, here is a letter he cowrote in support of a
>similar move at Boston University: <>.

I couldn't have said it better myself!  And, along with lots of other
letters, it had the intended effect; Carol Neidle wrote a couple of
weeks ago to let us know, and the site she links to, which is
(predictably) the same site Ben links to minus the Yale-specific
part, provides a useful overview.
Hi everyone,

Please pardon the mass distribution, but I wanted to thank ALL of you
for your help with the ASL issue at BU.

We have, I believe, succeeded with the policy change we were seeking.
Following a vote by the faculty of the Boston University College of Arts
and Sciences on March 16, 2005, American Sign Language will be
accepted for satisfaction of the College foreign language requirements
for both undergraduates and graduate students.

As you all know, it has not been easy to get this policy changed.
Further details about recent history and the specific policy changes
are available from

Many thanks for your help and support !!!

All best wishes,

>These two pages have lists of universities where ASL fulfills the foreign
>language requirement:
>The Linguist List has also had extensive discussion on the issue.
Indeed.  There have been countless anthologies, monographs, journal
articles (some in sign-language-specific journals), and so on devoted
to the study of the linguistic properties of ASL and other "natural"
and complex sign languages.  I'm not sure what the evidence in the
other direction is (once we make the distinction that Fritz mentions
between ASL and Signed English).


More information about the Ads-l mailing list