SLS History



Editorial Board

Press Home

Volume Five: Issue Two

Visible Verbs Become Spoken
William C. Stokoe

The Science of Human Nature and the Human Nature of Science
Louis Menand

Orange Eyes: Bimodal Bilingualism in Hearing Adults from Deaf Families
Michele Bishop and Sherry Hicks


Parental Hearing Status and Signing among Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students
Ross E. Mitchell and Michael A. Karchmer


Sharon Barnett and Richard Scotch, Disability Protests: Contentious Politics, 1970-1999 (Washington, D.C.: Gallaudet University Press)
Harry G. Lang

Kim E. Nielsen, The Radical Lives of Helen Keller

Robert L. Osgood
Orange Eyes: Bimodal Bilingualism in Hearing Adults from Deaf Families

Different aspects of bilingualism have been studied all over the world, (Grosjean 1982, Hornberger 1987, Romaine 1989, Zentella 1997, Wei 2000, King 2000, Ohara 2001, Pavlenko & Piller 2001, Piller 2002, Jaffe 2003). These studies have looked at a wide range of topics in spoken language bilinguals such as patterns of code switching, the role of code switching in community life, the success or failure of bilingual education, second language learning and gender, as well as many other issues focusing on single-modality bilinguals (using two spoken languages). These studies are often not applicable to the study of bimodal bilingualism in which the person knows a sign language from birth and the spoken language of the larger, hearing society. The study of bilingualism in hearing people from deaf families offers an opportunity to analyze how native users of both a signed and a spoken language combine aspects of both languages simultaneously (code blending). The lower status of American Sign Language (ASL) in relation to English may also contribute to how these bimodal bilinguals view and use their languages. Unlike spoken language bilinguals who must stop one language before beginning another, a bimodal bilingual has the capability to speak and sign at the same time. This linguistic capability will serve to inform and expand the field of bilingualism as well as areas such as discourse analysis and the role of code blending as a cultural identifier. This preliminary research focuses on e-mails taken from a forum on the Internet for hearing people with deaf parents. Two hundred and seventy five lines from 100 e-mails were collected and analyzed. The study shows evidence of strong ASL grammatical influence in these e-mails (an absence of overt subjects, overt objects, determiners, copula, and prepositions) as well as unique structures (nonstandard verb inflections, overgeneralization of ‘s’, syntactic calquing). There is also a strong tendency to use English to “describe” an ASL sign (i.e., “My father fork-in-throat”). The meaning of that sign fork-in-throat is “stuck,” but the bilingual chooses to use the visual description of the sign instead of the English lexical equivalent (note the absence of copula). The overall results of this analysis are compared to Internet Relay Chat as described by Werry and Mowbray (2001) and TDD writings (Mather 1991).

Back to the Top

Parental Hearing Status and Signing among Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students

On average, deaf and hard of hearing school-age children who have deaf or hard of hearing parents differ from those who have hearing-only parents in their signing experiences at home and school, as well as in their degree of hearing loss. Findings reported here, based on analysis of data from the 2001-2002 Annual Survey of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children and Youth, indicate that having at least one deaf parent is the most powerful indicator of the likelihood that the student is in a home where signing is used regularly and in a classroom where signing is a primary mode of communication used for instruction. Having just one hard of hearing parent (and no deaf parent) greatly reduces the likelihood that the child is receiving instruction in sign or regularly signs at home. Parental hearing status is also associated with the child’s degree of hearing loss, however, such that understanding the relationship between parental hearing status and signing experiences must be tempered by the fact that the physiological imperative for visual communication is frequently a result of genetic inheritance.

Back to the Top