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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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Illusions of Equality: Deaf Americans in School and Factory 1850-1950

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1. American Sign Language (ASL) is not a “simplified” language but a complete language with its own morphology, symbol system, and syntax. Signed languages resemble spoken languages in all central aspects, despite the different (spatial) modality in which they are expressed. ASL is the primary language of an estimated two hundred thousand to five hundred thousand Americans, including deaf native signers, hearing children of deaf parents, and late-deafened adults. Because of its visual system of representation, some laypersons have incorrectly assumed that ASL is fundamentally different from spoken languages in that it is a representational system for English. ASL contains structures and processes not found in English that are comparable in complexity, range, and richness to any other written or oral language. See Stokoe, Sign Language Structure, 1-78 passim.

2. For a discussion of membership in the deaf community see Padden and Humphries, Deaf in America (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1988), 2-6. Padden and Humphries use the uppercase notation Deaf when referring to Deaf individuals. For articles that explore the American deaf community, see Andrew Solomon, “Deaf Is Beautiful,” New Your Times Magazine (28 August 1994): Section 6, 38-45; Edward Dolnick, “Deafness as Culture,” Atlantic Monthly 272 (September 1993): 37-53. For an engrossing portrait of contemporary deaf high school students as they craft their identities and negotiate between the deaf and hearing worlds, see Cohen, train go sorry.

3. For a current study that documents the formative educational experience of an African American deaf woman, see Wright, Sounds Like Home.

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