Issues

Chapter Two continued...
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Some evidence is coming to light that natural sign language, while being sufficient, is not necessary for the establishment of the inner speech code in sign (e.g., Luetke-Stahlman 1988; Schick and Moeller 1992; Stewart, Akamatsu, and Becker 1995; Wodlinger-Cohen 1986). That is, sign systems designed to represent a spoken language on the hands can also provide sufficient linguistic information for establishing the inner speech (and consequently, a language) that would enable deaf children to engage in the higher cognitive functions that are generally present in literate people. Our data suggest an advantage for familial deafness, but not parental deafness. That is, genetic deafness confers an intellectual advantage as well as a link to the language as used by hearing people. Rather than pin hopes on the Deaf community's use of artificial sign systems based on spoken language for interpersonal communication (natural sign language does this perfectly well), we would suggest that natural sign systems, as suggested in this volume by Fischer (1998), can provide the same necessary and sufficient basis for the establishment of inner speech on which to base literacy.

English, as a language of instructional discourse, has a far longer history of use, a greater variety of genres, and a more clearly defined school register than does ASL. Importantly, it has a written form, which has allowed for a more uniform use of this discourse register across geographic contexts (from school to school, from province to province, even from country to country) and through time (e.g., Chaucer to Shakespeare to modern literature; Newton to Einstein to modern scientific writing).

Assertion 4: Total communication continues to be a viable means of instruction, provided that the programs are bilingual in nature.
In daily classroom practice, total communication as a program philosophy is often misinterpreted to mean simultaneous communication (i.e., spoken language with concurrent signing, but not using nonspoken natural signed language) . The current term in vogue to represent programs that include the use of natural signed language is bilingual-bicultural. Yet, can natural signed languages not be considered as a part of a total or comprehensive communication arsenal? The call for bilingual programs for deaf children is reasonable--from both a theoretical and a practical standpoint--and implementable (e.g., Luetke-Stahlman 1983; Paul, Bernhardt, and Gramly 1992; Reagan 1985). However, empirical evidence supporting particular models of bilingual programs has yet to be collected.

Research into the nature of simultaneous communication has shown that much of what is represented linearly in speech can be represented spatially in natural sign systems without detracting from meaning (Fischer 1998; Maxwell and Bernstein 1985; Maxwell, Bernstein, and Maer 1991; Newell, Stinson, Castle, Mallery-Ruganis, and Holcomb 1990; Stewart, Akamatsu, and Bonkowski 1990). Musselmanns when using simultaneous signing and speech. That is, the auditory signal is the primary channel for auditory/oral students and the visual signal for signing students.(6) Good simultaneous communication must exploit spatial syntax to be visually accessible. It may also be able to exploit its linear relationship to speech to support development of the written form of language.

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