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Language and Linguistics > Sign Language

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Language and the Law in Deaf Communities Cover

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Language and the Law in Deaf Communities

Ceil Lucas, Editor

The ninth volume in the Sociolinguistics in Deaf Communities series focuses on forensic linguistics, a field created by noted linguist Roger Shuy, who begins the collection with an introduction of the issue of language problems experienced by minorities in legal settings. Attorney and linguist Rob Hoopes follows by showing how deaf people who use American Sign Language (ASL) are at a distinct disadvantage in legal situations, such as police interrogations, where only the feeblest of efforts are made to ensure that deaf suspects understand their constitutional rights. Susan Mather, an associate professor of linguistics and interpretation, and Robert Mather, a federal disability rights attorney, examine the use of interpreters for deaf jurors during trials. They reveal the courts’ gross misunderstandings of the important differences between ASL and Signed English. Sara S. Geer, an attorney at the National Association of the Deaf for 20 years, explains how the difficulty in understanding legal terminology in federal law is compounded for deaf people in every ordinary act, including applying for credit cards and filling out medical consent forms. Language and the Law in Deaf Communities concludes with a chapter by George Castelle, Chief Public Defender in Charleston, West Virginia. Although he has no special knowledge about the legal problems of deaf people, Castelle offers another perspective based upon his extensive experience in practicing and teaching law.

Language Attitudes in the American Deaf Community Cover

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Language Attitudes in the American Deaf Community

Joseph Christopher Hill

In a diverse signing community, it is not unusual to encounter a wide variety of expression in the types of signs used by different people. Perceptions of signing proficiency often vary within the community, however. Conventional wisdom intimates that those who learned at an early age at home or in school know true basic or standard American Sign Language. Those who learned ASL later in life or use contact or coded signs are considered to be less skillful Joseph Christopher Hill shows in Language Attitudes in the American Deaf Community various contradictions in the use of signed languages. Hill’s new study explores the linguistic and social factors that govern such stereotypical perceptions of social groups about signing differences. Hill’s analysis focuses on affective, cognitive, and behavioral types of evaluative responses toward particular language varieties, such as ASL, contact signing, and Signed English. His work takes into account the perceptions of these signing types among the social groups of the American Deaf community that vary based on generation, age of acquisition, and race. He also gauges the effects of social information on these perceptions, and their evaluation and descriptions of signing that departs from their respective concept of a signing standard. Language Attitudes concludes that standard ASL’s value will continue to rise and the Deaf/Hearing cultural dichotomy will remain relevant without the occurrence of a dramatic cultural shift.

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Language in Hand

Why Sign Came Before Speech

William C. Stokoe

In Language in Hand: Why Sign Came Before Speech, William C. Stokoe begins his exploration of the origin of human language with a 2400-year-old quote by Democritus: “Everything existing in the universe is the fruit of chance and necessity.” Stokoe capitalizes upon this simple credo in this far-ranging examination of the scholarly topography to support his formula for the development of language in humans: gesture-to-language-to-speech. Intrinsic to this is the proposition that speech is sufficient for language, but not necessary. Chance brought human ancestors down from the trees to the ground, freeing their hands for gesture, and then sign language, a progression that came from the necessity to communicate. Stokoe recounts in Language in Hand how inspiration grew out of his original discovery in the 1950s and ’60s that deaf people who signed were using a true language with constructions that did not derive from spoken English. This erudite, highly engaging investigation calls upon decades of personal experience and published research to refute the recently entrenched principles that humans have a special, innate learning faculty for language and that speech equates with language. Integrating current findings in linguistics, semiotics, and anthropology, Stokoe fashions a closely-reasoned argument that suggests how our human ancestors’ powers of observation and natural hand movements could have evolved into signed morphemes. Stokoe also proposes how the primarily gestural expression of language with vocal support shifted to primarily vocal language with gestural accompaniment. When describing this transition, however, he never loses sight of the significance of humans in the natural world and the role of environmental stimuli in the development of language. Stokoe illustrates this contention with fascinating observations of small, contemporary ethnic groups such as the Assiniboin Nakotas, a Native American group from Montana that intermingle their spoken and signed languages depending upon cultural imperatives. Language in Hand also presents innovative thoughts on classifiers in American Sign Language and their similarity to certain spoken languages, convincing evidence that speech originally copied sign language forms before developing unrelated conventions through usage. Stokoe concludes with a hypothesis on how the acceptance of sign language as the first language of humans could revolutionize the education of infants, both deaf and hearing, who, like early humans, have the full capacity for language without speech.

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Language in Motion

Exploring the Nature of Sign

Jerome D. Schein and David A. Stewart

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.

Language Policy and Planning for Sign Languages Cover

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Language Policy and Planning for Sign Languages

Timothy G. Reagan

This volume addresses the burgeoning need for language policy and language planning for the sign languages used by deaf people. Author Timothy Reagan writes for two audiences in his new book, those who know language policy and language planning but not the Deaf World, and those well-versed in the Deaf cultural community but unfamiliar with language planning studies. To begin, Chapter 1 presents an overview of the Deaf World and a brief introduction to sign language in general. The second chapter outlines a broad overview of language policy and language planning studies both as an academic discipline and an applied type of social engineering. In Chapter 3, Reagan examines the specifics of American Sign Language (ASL) in terms of the history of language policy and planning from the nineteenth century to the post-Congress of Milan period and its form in recent years. The fourth chapter critically examines the creation of manual codes used in deaf education in the U.S. and elsewhere. Chapter 5 analyzes language policy and planning in settings around the world, and the final chapter recommends steps and methods for future language policy and planning efforts for sign languages. The cohesive rationale offered in Language Policy and Planning for Sign Languages will prove to be invaluable to all administrators and educators working with populations that use sign languages.

Learning American Sign Language in High School Cover

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Learning American Sign Language in High School

Motivation, Strategies, and Achievement

Reflecting the exponential growth of college courses offering American Sign Language (ASL) as a foreign language, high schools have followed suit with significant increases in ASL classes during the past two decades. Despite this trend, high school ASL teachers and program administrators possess no concrete information on why students take ASL for foreign language credit, how they learn new signs and grammar, and how different learning techniques determines their achievement in ASL. This new book addresses these issues to better prepare high schools in their recruitment and education of new ASL students. Author Russell S. Rosen begins with the history of ASL as a foreign language in high schools, including debates about the foreign language status of ASL, the situation of deaf and hard of hearing students in classes, and governmental recognition of ASL as a language. Based on his study of five high school ASL programs, he defines the factors that motivate students, including community and culture, and analyzes strategies for promoting language processing and learning. Learning American Sign Language in High School provides strategies for teaching ASL as a second language to students with learning disabilities as well. Its thorough approach ensures the best opportunity for high school students high levels of achievement in learning ASL.

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Learning To See

American Sign Language as a Second Language

Sherman Wilcox and Phyllis Perrin Wilcox

As more and more secondary schools and colleges accept American Sign Language (ASL) as a legitimate choice for second language study, Learning to See has become even more vital in guiding instructors on the best ways to teach ASL as a second language. And now this groundbreaking book has been updated and revised to reflect the significant gains in recognition that deaf people and their native language, ASL, have achieved in recent years. Learning to See lays solid groundwork for teaching and studying ASL by outlining the structure of this unique visual language. Myths and misconceptions about ASL are laid to rest at the same time that the fascinating, multifaceted elements of Deaf culture are described. Students will be able to study ASL and gain a thorough understanding of the cultural background, which will help them to grasp the language more easily. An explanation of the linguistic basis of ASL follows, leading into the specific, and above all, useful information on teaching techniques. This practical manual systematically presents the steps necessary to design a curriculum for teaching ASL, including the special features necessary for training interpreters. The new Learning to See again takes its place at the forefront of texts on teaching ASL as a second language, and it will prove to be indispensable to educators and administrators in this special discipline.

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Lessons in Laughter

The Autobiography of a Deaf Actor

Bernard Bragg, as signed to Eugene Bergman

To succeed as an actor is a rare feat. To succeed as a deaf actor is nothing short of amazing. Lessons in Laughter is the story of Bernard Bragg and his astonishing lifelong achievements in the performing arts. Born deaf of deaf parents, Bernard Bragg has won international renown as an actor, director, playwright, and lecturer. Lessons in Laughter recounts in stories that are humorous, painful, touching, and outrageous, the growth of his dream of using the beauty of sign language to act. He starred in his own television show “The Quiet Man,” helped found The National Theatre of the Deaf, and traveled worldwide to teach his acting methods.

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Many Ways to Be Deaf

International Variation in Deaf Communities

Leila Monaghan, Constanze Schmaling, Karen Nakamura, and Graham H. Turner, Editors

The recent explosion of sociocultural, linguistic, and historical research on signed languages throughout the world has culminated in Many Ways to Be Deaf, an unmatched collection of in-depth articles about linguistic diversity in Deaf communities on five continents. Twenty-four international scholars have contributed their findings from studying Deaf communities in Japan, Thailand, Viet Nam, Taiwan, Russia, Sweden, Austria, Switzerland, Great Britain, Ireland, Nigeria, South Africa, Brazil, Nicaragua, and the United States. Sixteen chapters consider the various antecedents of each country’s native signed language, taking into account the historical background of their development and also the effects of foreign influences and changes in philosophies by the larger, dominant hearing societies. The remarkable range of topics covered in Many Ways to Be Deaf will fascinate readers, from the evolution of British fingerspelling traced back to the 17th century; the comparison of Swiss German Sign Language with Rhaeto-Romansch, another Swiss minority language; the analysis of seven signed languages described in Thailand and how they differ in relation to their distance from isolated Deaf communities to Bangkok and other urban centers; to the vaulting development of a nascent sign language in Nicaragua, and much more. The diversity of background and training among the contributors to Many Ways to Be Deaf distinguishes it as a genuine and unique multicultural examination of the myriad manifestations of being Deaf in a diverse world.

Metaphor in American Sign Language Cover

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Metaphor in American Sign Language

Phyllis Perrin Wilcox

Only recently have linguists ceased to regard metaphors as mere frills on the periphery of language and begun to recognize them as cornerstones of discourse. Phyllis Wilcox takes this innovation one step further in her fascinating study of metaphors in American Sign Language (ASL). Such an inquiry has long been obscured by, as Wilcox calls it, “the shroud of iconicity.” ASL’s iconic nature once discouraged people from recognizing it as a language; more recently it has served to confuse linguists examining its metaphors. Wilcox, however, presents methods for distinguishing between icon and metaphor, allowing the former to clarify, not cloud, the latter. “If the iconic influence that surrounds metaphor is set aside, the results will be greater understanding, and interpretations that are less opaque.” Wilcox concludes her study with a close analysis of the ASL poem, “The Dogs,” by Ella Mae Lentz. In presenting Deaf Americans’, Deaf Germans’, and Deaf Italians’ reactions to the poem, Wilcox manages not only to demonstrate the influence of culture upon metaphors, but also to illuminate the sources of sociopolitical division within the American Deaf community. Metaphor in American Sign Language proves an engrossing read for those interested in linguistics and Deaf culture alike.

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