SignWriting List Archive 1
October 1997 - May 1998

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May 9, 1998

SUBJECT: Standardization of ASL

From: Bettibonni <>
Date: Sat, 9 May 1998 10:55:29 EDT
Mime-Version: 1.0
Subject: Re: Standardization of ASL

Hi folks, normally I do not react to postings, and maybe it s just a full moon day or something, but I wanted to throw this out. Post to list, please.

In a message dated 98-05-08 14:36:16 EDT, you write:

> Something that I have noticed in taking classes, following videos and
> reading books, is that ASL vocabulary differs widely across North America.
> No sooner have I learned a sign, but we have to relearn it as it is not the
> sign of use in this part of Ontario. Some signs are in use only at the
> local school for the deaf.

I get the impression that this is not a good situation? Why not? Language is very diversified and that is what makes it a very exciting language. Does Arthur Miller say things the same way Mark Twain would? or Shakespeare? If the language were standardized you would not get the unique flavor each individual brings to it.

Another thing to keep in mind is that a lot of teachers are teaching the language the only way they know how... which is to follow exactly what a publisher may have printed in a book. It doesn't mean that's how the language is. I'm sure many people will agree that the students who have the most native-like skills are usually those that have frequent contact with a large number of various and diverse deaf people (houseparents, dormitory advisors, camp counselors are a few that come to mind) Standardization is not the issue, more diversification is.

> Now that I have been reading the grammar file in
> the SignWriting programme, I realise that the grammar is also different!
> For instance, we have been taught that the verb must always come after the
> subject and object of the sentence. Some examples from the file include the
> signed sentence, " you go home " where our signed word order would be "
> home you go " with the object first, subject second and the verb last.

> A couple of other examples:-

> " Suppose I money, I buy book " here becomes " Suppose money I have, book
> I buy "

> " Suppose rain, I stay home " here becomes " Suppose rain, home I stay "

> I was very intrigued to find this difference in grammatical structure, and
> can't help but feel that SignWriting is the way to standardize ASL across
> North American to the benefit of all users, deaf and hearing alike. After
> all, this is what increased literacy has done for every other language in
> the World.

I have mixed feelings about this, and am not sure this is a totally valid assertion.

> I firmly believe that if children learn SignWriting before they learn
> English, their literacy level in English will increase and English will be
> easier for them to learn. After all, as it stands, English is not only a
> second language to native ASL users, but it is also limited only to the
> written form. That is a much harder way to learn any language, particularly
> if you cannot already read your own..

Somehow I get the feeling that ASL (or any signed language) is an inferior language and the purpose of any teaching technique would be to master a spoken language?

Or did I read all this wrong?




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