the world without hearing and being sent to school with other children who are deaf. For the first time you discover
a form of communication that allows you to convey your thoughts and feelings with other children your age. Now, try
to envision what it would be like to discover that what has brought communication to you is not even considered a language.
Imagine growing up and realizing that no one has taken time to look at this language nor studied it like other forms of verbal
communication. Then, think what emotions would be evoked when you were told for the first time that your method of exchanging
ideas is unacceptable and suddenly you have to try to fit into a society that doesn’t understand you. Older Deaf
adults experienced this in the nineteenth century (Padden and Humphries, 2005).
During the beginning parts
of the 1800s, an observer could walk into a residential school for the Deaf and hard of hearing and observe the use of American
Sign Language (ASL) or manually coded English by students and teachers. After the Milan Conference took place in the
1800s, sign language was banned in schools throughout the nation (Berke, 2000). This conference was a rude awakening
to the Deaf community throughout the world and for the first time they realized a need for members of the Deaf culture and
ASL supporters in the United States to defend their language. In the United States, this need was demonstrated
by the number of supporters becoming members of the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) (Berke, 2000). The Milan
Conference and the movement towards Oralism created a large wedge between the hearing and Deaf Culture that still persists
today. These two philosophies Oralism and Manualism, continuously are debated by educators of the Deaf and hard of hearing.
The Deaf culture got another shock when Gallaudet University, a University for the Deaf/hard of hearing, tried to elect a hearing president
who did not know sign language (DPN, 2003). The Deaf Culture surprised the nation with an overwhelming response, changing
the selection from a hearing president to the first Deaf president at the University (DPN, 2003).
Research on ASL
William Stokoe is the first
individual in history who really analyzed ASL in the 1950s, and validated its existence as a language. Prior to this,
several dictionaries discussing the vocabulary of signs were made, but none specifically focusing on it as a language.
Two major books; Sign Language Structure by Stokoe, in 1960, and The Signs of Language by Klima and Bellugi,
in 1979; guided the epic analysis journey of ASL as a language (McNeill and Duncan, 2005). After Stokoe, linguists began
to take notice of another language that had been left behind in his studying, and for the first time ASL was recognized as
a language; and demonstrated that it is not just a code for spoken English (Brentari, 2001).
Although, the bulk of sign language
research was conducted during 1970 to 1980s (Emmorey and Lane, 2000) it is only recently that linguists have really started
to focus on the need to study the linguistic variations that exist in this language (Bayley, Lucas,and Rose, 2000).
Research on the different aspects of language and culture is important to educators, linguists, and the community. The information and knowledge that comes from research can promote awareness and acceptance; new methods
of instructions; and new ideas of how language develops.
Statements of Questions
This study revolves around three questions in order to maintain structure and focus. The following questions
will be answered in this paper and website. (1) How long has it taken to develop linguistics of American Sign Language and
why did it take that long? (2) What different variation/dialects exist in American Sign Language? (3) Is there a standard
American Sign Language?
As language teachers,
educators of the Deaf and hard of hearing must attempt to provide a form of language for children that enter the classroom.
As teachers, it is our role to observe individuals with possible language disorders and find ways to work around those disabilities
to create a child whom can live, function, and succeed in a hearing world. As educators, we’re surrounded with
many different modes of communication and it is our job to understand all of them so we can place the child in the best educational
The author of this study hopes to use literature
and reasoning to bring the knowledge of the variations that exist in sign language and implications in educating our children
to the foreground of the reader's mind. By knowing if, there is a standard for American Sign Language; educators can help
children grow not only in their English use; but also in their signing to be knowledgeable users of their own language.