Gallaudet University Press

14:12 Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Will the “Real” Style of American Sign Language Please Stand Up

A New Study Explores Signing Differences in the American Deaf Community

As a mainstreamed member of a family of deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing people, Joseph Christopher Hill, was raised to use spoken English, written English, Signed English, contact signing, and (American Sign Language) ASL. While pursuing his master’s degree at Gallaudet University, he learned that there were different types of signing used within the Gallaudet community: Deaf people from ASL-signing Deaf families used English elements in their signing occasionally; Deaf people from hearing families used ASL even more dynamically than some Deaf people from Deaf families. What was ASL? What was contact signing? What was Signed English? Why did the social background matter? “These questions,” shares Hill, author of Language Attitudes in the American Deaf Community, “were the seeds that grew into this volume.”

The 18th volume in the Sociolinguistics in Deaf Communities series, Language Attitudes in the American Deaf Community is the culmination of a four-year research project designed to document language attitudes within the American Deaf community. “It is also a milestone in my personal journey as a Deaf person to understand people’s perceptions of me based on my language skills and their views of a standard language, be it ASL or English,” Hill discloses. “The basic research question addressed is What are the linguistic and social factors that govern attitudes toward signing in the American Deaf community?” Overall, “the general attitude about ASL is more positive today than it was at the time William Stokoe published his influential linguistic work on ASL in the 1960s. But based on the subjects’ discussion of ASL forms and features, the knowledge of ASL structure is not as standardized now, although most younger subjects are more familiar with its structure than are some older subjects.”

Read more in chapter two, “The American Deaf Community,” and save 20% off the regular price when you order Language Attitudes in the American Deaf Community online or by mail. For online orders, type “DEC2012” in the box labeled “use promo code” next to the checkout button.

Mother and daughter coauthors Rebecca Willman Gernon and Amy Willman caught the attention of Reference & Research Book News for their new book Amy Signs: A Mother, Her Deaf Daughter, and Their Stories: “Gernon, a writer, and her deaf daughter Willman relate the story of Willman’s childhood through a narrative that interweaves accounts from each of them. They describe her testing and diagnosis, hearing aids and language therapy, attendance at a school for the deaf and Gallaudet University, the deaf culture, being deaf in a hearing world, communicating with sign language, and other experiences.” Read chapter 37, “Do You Sign?”, in its entirety, and order Amy Signs today. For your convenience, you may order online or by mail.

“Every student of ASL should have this book,” Kim B. Kurz (National Technical Institute for the Deaf, Rochester Institute of Technology) observes in the Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education. “It would also be an excellent reference book for deaf students who want to create ABC stories, a popular form of ASL storytelling.” Expanded to more than 1,900 sign illustrations arranged by 40 basic handshapes, the second edition of The American Sign Language Handshape Dictionary enables users to look up signs they have seen without knowing their English meaning, with a fully cross-referenced English index and a DVD featuring native signers forming every sign. Order this bestselling reference online or by mail now.

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