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Linguistics and Dialects of American Sign Language

Home | Introduction | Vocabulary | Evidence of Misdiagnosis | Identifying a Disorder in Student's from a Linguistically Diverse Background | Deaf Culture | History of ASL | ASL Timeline | Variations/Dialects in ASL | ASL:standardization? | Standardization | Bibliography

American Sign Language (ASL): 

    • This is visual and gestural language that has its own structure and rules that is separate from spoken or signed English (Baker and Padden, 1978).  The language is predominately found in the United States, parts of Canada, and Mexico.  In some books it is referred to as Ameslan. It is used by a specific culture and it possesses its own dynamic nature that can express any thoughts or feelings (ASHA, 1995).  It is composed of specific movements and shapes of the hands, arms, face, and body posture.  It is these movements or gestures that serve as ‘words’ and ‘intonations’ to the language (Baker and Padden, 1978). 
  •  Arbitrariness: 
    • An aspect of language in which there is no direct resemblance between the words being expressed and their referents (Carroll, 2004).
  • Code Switching:
    • The ability of the user to switch dialects or languages depending on the communication setting that is presented to them (Vinson, 1999).
  • Contact Singing (Formally called PSE or Pidgin):
    •   Combines the features of both English and American Sign Language (ASL).  It is characterized by reductions, mixtures, and new structures.  It basically follows English word order, but incorporates ASL in the use of space, directionality, repetition of movement, and inflection (Wilbur, 1979).
  • Communication:  
    • An exchange of intended or unintended information that occurs between a sender and a receiver (Gillam, Marquardt, and Martin, 2000).
  • Communication Differences: 
    •  Communicative abilities that differ from those other individuals in the same environment in the absence of impairment (Gillam, Marquardt, and Martin, 2000).
  • Communication Disorder: 
    •  A term that is sometimes used as a synonym for impairment, and other times as a synonym for disability (Gillam, Marquardt, and Martin, 2000).
  • Community:
    •   A group of people with a common characteristic or interest, living together within a larger society (Merriam, 2003).
  • Cued Speech: 
    • A code developed in 1966 by R. Orin Cornett as a solution to the reading and language barriers faced by d/Deaf people.  It is only a code for the spoken language being used, not a language. The code consists of eight hand shapes that represent consonants; and four possible positions that represent vowels.  These hand shapes and positions are cued at the same time to aide in supplementing the information, which is visible on the lips.  It is a speech-based method of communication aimed at taking the guesswork out of lip reading (Childers, 2003).
  • deaf/Deaf:
    •   A lowercase ‘d’ deaf represents a pathological view on deafness or someone who is deaf but does not align themselves with the Deaf culture.  The ‘D’ Deaf, reflects a Deaf individual’s connection with the Deaf community.
  • Deaf Culture: 
    •   Members of a group who align themselves with the Deaf community and view being deaf as a unique characteristic.  Individuals within the group share common experiences, traditions, history, and language.  They don’t share a disease or a disability, but they do share an identity (ASHA, 1995).
  • Dialect: 
    •  Rule-governed, systematic, and pattered variations in a language (Vinson, 1999).
  • Direction: 
    • The direction of the movement of the sign, which can be significant in giving meaning to what the individual is trying to imply.  Direction can be used to supplement information on the subject or object that is being discussed and at other times direction plays a part in telling what word or image the speaker is discussing (Grayson, 2003).
  • Disability:
    •  A reduced ability to meet daily living needs (Gillam, Marquardt, and Martin, 2000).
  • Fingerspelling: 
    •  A method by which an individual forming different shapes that represents a letter from the alphabet, can spell out English words, as well as abbreviate individual words.  This is also referred to as the Manual Alphabet.  It is a visual code for language as opposed to being one (Grayson, 2003).
  • Gesture 
    • A movement, usually of the body or limbs, that expresses or emphasizes an idea, sentiment, or attitude (Merriam, 2003).
  • Gloss: 
    •  A word used to represent a sign, which tries to approximate the sign’s meaning. It is written in all capital letters (ex: FINISH) (Wilbur, 1979).
  • Handshape:  
    • One of the parameters that shape the signs we create with our hands.  While some of the handshapes are named with letter names, they are not necessarily identical to the formation of the letters in the Manual Alphabet (Wilbur, 1979).
  • Iconicity: 
    •  One characteristic of language where words resemble their referents (Carroll, 2004).
  • Initialized Signs:  
    • When the hand shape of a local sign is converted to one that corresponds to the first letter of an English version.  Some of these initialized signs have no local complements.  What appears to be a defining characteristic of these signs is that they are members of semantic fields, occupied by several signs varying along a semantic dimension.  This is one of the most productive word-building processes in ASL, which is used widely for technical or professional purposes (Brentari, 2001).     
  • Language: 
    • A dynamic and complex system of conventional symbols used in various modes for the purposes of communication and thought (Vinson, 1999).
  • Language Disorder:  
    • Any disruption in the learning of language in the absence of primary intellectual, sensory, or emotional deficits (Vinson, 1999).
  • Learning disability:
    •   The difference between what the child is achieving and what the child should be academically achieving, given the child’s age and intellectual ability.  This difference is measured by one or more of the following abilities: listening, reading, speaking, writing, reasoning, mathematical computation or mathematical problem solving (Kluwin and Stewart, 2001).
  • Lexical ambiguity: 
    • A word that has more than one meaning (Carroll, 2005).
  • Linguistics:
    •  A branch of science that studies the origin, structure, and use of a language (Carroll, 2005).
  • Linguistics of visual English (LOVE): 
    •  This system was created and designed to be used by children who are d/Deaf at a preschool/kindergarten level. The signs were created to mimic the speech rhythm. It is used less today than in the past (Paul and Quigley, 1984).
  • Location:  
    • The relationship of the formation of the sign with its location to the body (Battison, 1978).
  • Manualism:  
    • A belief that signing is a natural way for children who are d/Deaf or hard of hearing to communicate. It encourages teaching the child some form of sign language, preferably American Sign Language. They also believe that if a student wants to speak it should be secondary to signing and at the student’s own pace (Myers, 1999).
  • Manually Coded English: 
    •  Forms of signs from signing which were created to represent English words and follow English word order. These include adding endings such as “-ing”, “ed” for past tense, “s” for plurals, and initial letters representing different English forms (Wilbur, 1979).
  • Manual Codes, Manual Systems: 
    •  Synthetically manufactured and simplified replications of English.  It more accurately represents written as opposed to spoken (Baynton, 1996).  They are typically used in the practice of Total Communication (TC).  They are not sign languages; they merely offer a way to make the spoken language more accessible to the deaf “listener” as it is produced, and the grammar is still that of the spoken language (Gillam, Marquardt, and Martin, 2000).
  • Non-Manual Markers: 
    • The movements that involve the head and upper body, which are used in a variety of ways in language, both affectively and grammatically (Neidle,Kegl, Maclaughin, Bahan, and Lee, 2000).

Date Created: May 15, 2006 Time: 10:52 pm
Date Modified: June 8, 2006