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Volume Six: Issue One

Fall 2005

COMMENTARY
Bernard Mottez and the Sociology of the Deaf
Andrea Benvenuto
ARTICLES
The Political Uses of Sign Language: The Case of the French Revolution
Sophia Rosenfeld

Abstract

Variation in ASL: The Role of Grammatical Function
Ceil Lucas and Robert Bayley

Abstract

American Sign Language Teacher Preparation Programs in the United States
E. Lynn Jacobowitz

Abstract

BOOK REVIEWS
The Deaf Way:
     Yves Delaporte, Les sourds, c’est comme ça
David F. Armstrong

The Visible and the Vocal: Speech and Gesture on a Continuum of Communicative Actions
     Adam Kendon, Gesture: Visible Action as Utterance

Fey Parrill
ABSTRACTS
The Political Uses of Sign Language: The Case of the French Revolution

The story of the Abbé de l’Epée’s “methodical signs” is best known as a key moment in Deaf history. However, at the time of the French Revolution this story served a larger political function. The example of de l’Epée’s deaf students, and their seemingly miraculous command of ideas learned through gestural signs, helped the French revolutionaries to imagine an ideal state of communication in the midst of a perceived crisis in language and politics. This essay both explains the political effects of this late eighteenth-century fascination with sign language and makes a case for the integration of Deaf history into the history of politics and social life more generally.

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Variation in ASL: The Role of Grammatical Function

Variation in the parts of ASL signs (i.e., phonological variation) has been explained largely by reference to the influence of the preceding and the following segments. This article examines three linguistic variables in ASL: the sign deaf; the location of a class of signs represented by the verb know; and signs produced with a 1 handshape. For all three of these variables, a multivariate analysis of more than nine thousand tokens extracted from videotaped conversations among 207 signers in seven sites across the United States shows that the grammatical function of a sign, rather than the features of the preceding or following signs, is the most important influence on a signer’s choice among the variants. In addition to providing evidence for the role of this previously unexamined influence on variation in ASL, the results of this study highlight the importance of basing claims about the likely causes of variation on empirical studies of broadly representative samples of data collected in the language community.

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American Sign Language Teacher Preparation Programs in the United States

Even though ASL isn’t as easy to learn as it may seem at first, more and more students are enrolling in ASL courses at both the secondary and university levels and choosing ASL as a primary area of study. For this reason the demand for ASL teachers is increasing, and the need for ASL teacher-preparation programs (ASL TPPs) has increased. Therefore, to assess present and future standards, an examination of the current ASL TPPs in the United States was called for. This article compares three ASL TPPs and examines them for compliance with national teaching standards. The analysis of each site highlights four areas: (a) the program, (b) curriculum development, (c) admission and enrollment requirements, and (d) the courses. Following the curricular narratives of these schools is a comparison of their programs with the trends in national standards. The article ends with some recommendations for upgrading the existing and new ASL TPPs.

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