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Personal Experience Narratives in American Sign Language
Personal narratives are one way people code their experiences and convey them to others. Given that speakers can simultaneously express information and define a social situation, analyzing how and why people structure the telling of personal narratives can provide insight into the social dimensions of language use. In Extraordinary from the Ordinary: Personal Experience Narratives in American Sign Language, Kristin Jean Mulrooney shows that accounts by Deaf persons expressed in ASL possess the same characteristics and perform the same function as oral personal narratives. Mulrooney analyzes 12 personal narratives by ASL signers to determine how they “tell” their stories. She examines the ASL form of textual narration to see how signers use lexical signs to grammatically encode information, and how they also convey perceived narration. In perceived narration, the presenter depicts a past occurrence in the immediate environment that allows the audience to partially witness and interpret the event. Mulrooney determined that ASL narratives reveal a patterned structure consisting of an introduction, a main events section for identifying and describing past occurrences, and a conclusion. They also can include background information, an explication section in which the presenter expands or clarifies an event, and a section that allows the presenter to explain his or her feelings about what happened. Liberally illustrated with photographs from videotaped narratives, Extraordinary from the Ordinary offers an engrossing, expansive view of personal narratives embodying the unique linguistic elements of ASL.
The Role of Gallaudet University in Deaf History
Despite its prominence as a world cultural center and a locus of research on deaf culture, history, education, and language for more than 150 years, Gallaudet University has only infrequently been the focal point of historical study. Eminent historians Brian H. Greenwald and John Vickrey Van Cleve have remedied this scarcity with A Fair Chance in the Race of Life: The Role of Gallaudet University in Deaf History. In this collection, a remarkable cast of scholars examine the university and its various roles through time, many conducting new research in the Gallaudet University Archives, an unsurpassed repository of primary sources of deaf history. Pulitzer-Prize-winning historian James M. McPherson sets the stage in his essay “A Fair Chance in the Race of Life,” President Abraham Lincoln’s first statement to Congress championing the rights of all people. The papers that follow scrutinize Gallaudet’s long domination by hearing presidents, its struggle to find a place within higher education, its easy acquiescence to racism, its relationship with the federal government, and its role in creating, shaping, and nurturing the deaf community. These studies do more than simply illuminate the university, however. They also confront broad issues that deal with the struggles of social conformity versus cultural distinctiveness, minority cohesiveness, and gender discrimination. “Deaf” themes, such as the role of English in deaf education, audism, and the paternalism of hearing educators receive analysis as well.
Memories of World War II and Afterward
“She’s got no more business there than a pig has with a Bible.” That’s what her father said when Mary Herring announced that she would be moving to Washington, DC, in late 1942. Recently graduated from the North Carolina School for Black Deaf and Blind Students, Mary had been invited to the nation’s capital by a cousin to see a specialist about her hearing loss. Though nothing could be done about her deafness, Mary quickly proved her father wrong by passing the civil service examination with high marks. Far from Home: Memories of World War II and Afterward, the second installment of her autobiography, describes her life from her move to Washington to the present. Mary soon became a valued employee for the Navy, maintaining rosters for the many servicemen in war theaters worldwide. Her remarkable gift for detail depicts Washington in meticulous layers, a sleepy Southern town force-grown into a dynamic geopolitical hub. Life as a young woman amid the capital’s Black middle class could be warm and fun, filled with visits from family and friends, and trips home to Iron Mine for tearful, joyous reunions. But the reality of the times was never far off. On many an idyllic afternoon, she and her friends found somber peace in Arlington Cemetery, next to the grave of the sole Unknown Soldier at that time. During an evening spent at the U.S.O., one hearing woman asked how people like her could dance, and Mary answered, “With our feet.” She became a pen pal to several young servicemen, but did not want to know why some of them suddenly stopped writing.
Special Education in Boston, 1838-1930
In his perceptive study of the education of disabled children during the 19th and early 20th centuries, Robert Osgood focuses upon the Boston school system as both typical and a national leader among urban centers at that time. Osgood points out that a host of significant figures worked in education in the region, including Horace Mann, George Emerson, and John Philbrick, and also Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, Samuel Gridley Howe, Edouard Seguin, Hervey Wilbur, and Walter Fernald, each of the latter group noted for first founding and/or directing institutions for individuals with disabilities. For “Children Who Vary from the Normal Type” describes the growth of Boston and its educational system during this period, then examines closely the emergence of individual programs that catered to students formally identified as having special needs: intermediate schools and ungraded classes; three separate programs for students with children; special classes for mentally retarded children; and other programs established between 1908 and 1913. Osgood describes these programs and their relations with each other, and also the rationales offered for their establishment and support. This detailed examination graphically depicts how patterns of integration and segregation in special education shifted over time in Boston, and provides a foundation for continuing the present-day discussion of the politics and realities of inclusion.
Biographical Sketches of Bébian, Sicard, Massieu, and Clerc
In 1811, deaf student Ferdinand Berthier commenced his education at the National Institute for the Deaf in Paris under its director Abbé Sicard and his teachers Auguste Bébian, Jean Massieu, and Laurent Clerc. Their tutelage eventually led Berthier to join the faculty at the Institute and become a life-long proponent of sign language and Deaf culture. Berthier earned fame for instituting the famous silent banquets in Paris in 1834. He also learned to advance his agenda by writing biographies of important figures who advocated sign over oralism to educate deaf French students. Forging Deaf Education in Nineteenth-Century France offers the first translation of Berthier’s biographical sketches of the four men above who influenced him most. Berthier wrote first about Bébian in 1839, timed to advocate sign language for teaching deaf students after the departure of the pro-oralism Institute Director Désiré Ordinaire. Berthier extolled Bébian’s linguistic acumen and his educational philosophy. In later sketches, however, he described Sicard and Massieu in positive terms but also criticized them for supporting “methodical” signing, which conformed to spoken language conventions. In contrast, he lauded Clerc in his portrayal for using “natural” signing to teach deaf students. The incisiveness of Freeman G. Henry’s introduction and the clarity of his translations will enthrall readers now able to read Berthier’s biographies in English for the first time.
The meaning of any linguistic expression resides not only in the words, but also in the ways that those words are conveyed. In her new study, Miako N. P. Rankin highlights the crucial interrelatedness of form and meaning at all levels in order to consider specific types of American Sign Language (ASL) expression. In particular, Form, Meaning, and Focus in American Sign Language, Miako N. P. Rankin considers how ASL non-agent focus, similar to the meaning of passive voice in English. Rankin’s analyses of the form-meaning correspondences of ASL expressions of non-agent focus reveals an underlying pattern that can be traced across sentence and verb types. This pattern produces meanings with various levels of focus on the agent. Rankin has determined in her meticulous study that the pattern of form-meaning characteristic of non-agent focus in ASL is used prolifically in day-to-day language. The recognition of the frequency of this pattern holds implications regarding the acquisition of ASL, the development of curricula for teaching ASL, and the analysis of ASL discourse in effective interpretation.
As a young, deaf Jewish woman living in a small town in Michigan in 1942, Sandra Horowitz felt deeply frustrated by her limited prospects. Even though she had just graduated from junior college, she knew that she had two strikes against her in fulfilling her dream to become a veterinarian. Better to marry Jacob Winter, her parents urged her, a deaf Jewish man who made a good living. Then, Sandra met Rudy Townsend, a hearing soldier on leave before he shipped out to the war in Europe. In just four days, both Sandra and Rudy’s worlds were turned upside down. Sandra’s parents feared him for being hearing and a Gentile, while Rudy’s parents expressed openly their bias against her ethnic background and her deafness. Even so, Sandra and Rudy soon realized that they had fallen in love, deeply and passionately. As they shared the brief time they had together, they learned about each other’s dreams for the future — Sandra’s desire to be a vet and Rudy’s determination to serve in Congress. Then, Rudy had to leave for the war. Philip Zazove’s novel Four Days in Michigan captures perfectly the power of irrepressible love between two individuals from opposite backgrounds. The struggles they encounter in an era when such differences were never more sharply drawn also reveal great detail about deaf and hearing life. Despite all, their triumph comes ultimately because of their long-lasting individual respect and love.
The Taiwanese Example
In the growing body of research on sign language linguistics, one area of inquiry considers an important component of all sign languages — handshapes — and whether the use of specific kinds increase in direct relation to the ease of their formation. Author Jean Ann provides significant clarification in her book Frequency of Occurrence and Ease of Articulation of Sign Language Handshapes: The Taiwanese Example. Ann employs a straightforward methodology in her examination of the use of Taiwan Sign Language (TSL) handshapes in five succinct chapters. In the first chapter, she discusses the two approaches linguists have taken toward understanding languages, and how these theories have influenced sign language researchers’ consideration of the ease of articulation and frequency of handshapes. In her second chapter, Ann delineates the physiology of hands and explains why certain digits move with greater dexterity than others. Ann applies this physiological information in the third chapter to construct a model for determining the ease of articulation of any logically possible handshape. She divides the handshapes into three categories, ranging from impossible to easy. In the fourth chapter, she applies her model to examine the patterns of TSL, first by describing the 56 handshapes identified in TSL, then determining how often each is used. She then compares the usage data to the handshapes’ ease of formation. The final chapter summarizes her findings and suggests implications of this work that are bound to generate further speculation and study on sign language handshapes in the future.
In 21 essays on communicative gesturing in the first two years of life, this vital collection demonstrates the importance of gesture in a child’s transition to a linguistic system. Introductions preceding each section emphasize the parallels between the findings in these studies and the general body of scholarship devoted to the process of spoken language acquisition. Renowned scholars contributing to this volume include Ursula Bellugi, Judy Snitzer Reilly, Susan Goldwin-Meadow, Andrew Lock, M. Chiara Levorato, and many others.
A History of Special Education in the 20th Century
Since Margret A. Winzer wrote her landmark work The History of Special Education, much has transpired in this field, which she again has captured in a remarkable display of scholarship. Winzer’s new study From Integration to Inclusion: A History of Special Education in the 20th Century focuses chiefly on the significant events of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries in the United States and Canada. Its key dynamics consist of a retrospective overview of the paradigms that emerged from and shaped special education; a critical assessment of past progress and reform, including failures and disappointments; and an analysis of the theoretical diversity within the discipline. In this stand-alone volume, Winzer juxtaposes the historical study of disability and of special schooling and service provision with reference to broader social systems, protocols, and practices. She documents how prevailing emotional and intellectual climates influence disability and schooling, and also takes into account the social, political, and ideological factors that affect educational theory and practice. Winzer recognizes that reform has been the Zeitgeist of the history of special education. Crucial problems such as defining exceptional conditions and separating them from one another were formulated in contexts organized along moral, theological, legislative, medical, and social dimensions. Many of these reforms failed for various reasons, which Winzer thoroughly explains in her study. Most of these reforms evolved from the long and honorable pedigree that the field of special education has possessed since its earliest antecedents, now admirably brought up to date by this outstanding work.