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Language in Motion

Exploring the Nature of Sign

Jerome D. Schein and David A. Stewart

Publication Year: 1995

This enjoyable book first introduces sign language and communication, follows with a history of sign languages in general, then delves into the structure of ASL. Later chapters outline the special skills of fingerspelling and assess the the academic offshoot of artificial sign systems and their value to young deaf children. Language in Motion offers for consideration the process required to learn sign language and putting sign language to work to communicate in the Deaf community. Appendices featuring the manual alphabets of three countries and a notation system developed to write signs complete this enriching book. Its delightful potpourri of entertaining, accessible knowledge makes it a perfect primer for those interested in learning more about sign language, Deaf culture, and Deaf communities.

Published by: Gallaudet University Press

Front Matter

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pp. vii-xvii

A world with no sounds. Phones don't ring. Thunder doesn't clap. The radio's just another piece of furniture. Automobiles glide silently past. Imagine, a soundless environment. Does such a world exist? And in that world, how would you communicate? Without sound, how would you get the news of the day? Would you be able to order pizza and have it delivered to your house? How would you invite friends to a barbeque? Could you explain to a colleague...

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1. A Brief History of Sign Language

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pp. 1-28

We may never know when sign language first came into being nor whether its first users were deaf or hearing. But evidence suggests signing is as old as the human species-and possibly older. Anthropologists who have speculated about the origins of language and who accept an evolutionary concept of its development now theorize that gesture preceded vocal utterance in human...

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2. The Structure of Sign Language

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pp. 29-62

The generic term describing the use of hands to systematically convey thoughts and feelings is signed communication. Sign language is one kind of signed communication. Fingerspelling, or the act of representing each letter of the alphabet by the shape of the fingers, is another. Most, if not all, sign languages of the world include fingerspelling, a topic that will be taken up in chapter 3....

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3. Let Your Fingers Do the Talking

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pp. 63-82

Using the manual alphabet, a person can fingerspell any English word, no matter how long or complicated. The manual alphabet, then, is a way of coding a spoken language. For each letter of the English alphabet there is a corresponding hand configuration in the American Manual Alphabet. The twenty-six letters...

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4. The Many Faces of Signing

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pp. 83-115

American Sign Language (ASL), like other sign languages, is a natural language; its origins were never recorded, but it is likely that no one person invented it. It developed over centuries, shaped by its numerous users in everyday situations. The fact that deaf people all over the world have created sign languages attests to their innate capacity for language and their need to communicate. In this chapter we will explore the multifaceted nature of sign...

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5. Learning to Sign

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pp. 116-127

Does watching other people sign arouse your desire to learn how to sign? Many people find sign language fascinating and seek opportunities to learn it. When you see sign language courses on the screen as you scan computer listings of college courses, you might check your schedule to see if you can fit one in. Or if you hear about a course being offered at your church or local community...

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6. Sign Language Economics

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pp. 128-151

Less than two decades ago, American Sign Language (ASL) had little commercial value. Now signing is a marketable skill. Many professional and business people regard it as an asset. The lawyer who can sign has great appeal to members of the Deaf community. The same holds true for physicians, accountants, and dentists. Tradespeople, such as barbers, hairdressers, and restaurateurs,...

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7. The Deaf Community

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pp. 152-191

Up to now we have spoken about deaf people and about those who sign and those who do not sign. We have alluded to the Deaf community; we have made references to Deaf culture. But we have not defined any of these terms. Now we must....

Appendix A: The Stokoe Notation System

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pp. 193-195

Appendix B: Manual Alphabets from Argentina, Japan, and Thailand

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pp. 196-199


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pp. 201-216


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pp. 217-221

E-ISBN-13: 9781563682308
E-ISBN-10: 1563682303
Print-ISBN-13: 9781563680397
Print-ISBN-10: 1563680394

Page Count: 240
Illustrations: 2 tables, 227 sign illustrations
Publication Year: 1995