- A Celebration of the Dictionary of American Sign Language on Linguistic Principles:Fifty Years Later
The Dictionary of American Sign Language on Linguistic Principles (Stokoe, Casterline, and Croneberg 1965) or DASL spearheaded an age of linguistic exploration in signed languages that is still ongoing today. The seminal DASL dared to present signs in their own right without relying on written English translations and revealed how signed languages could be examined as real and natural languages. “Here not only the invaluable help of Carl [Croneberg] and Dorothy [Caster-line] but also the insights of other signers added to our knowledge” (Stokoe 1993, 131). Also revolutionary was the dictionary’s ordering of data—lexical signs were listed in the order of their handshapes, rather than the alphabetical order of their English translation equivalents.
The year 2015 marked the fiftieth anniversary of the DASL’s publication. In order to commemorate the fiftieth year, the Department of ASL and Deaf Studies hosted a campus-wide celebration on December 1, 2015. As part of his BA Deaf Studies internship, Marvin Miller videotaped interviews from people involved with the DASL or the Linguistic Research Lab (LRL) at Gallaudet University. These [End Page 563] interviews were showcased in a nineteen-minute video along with several live presentations at the December 1 celebration. This article draws from these interviews (both pre-recorded and live). The Linguistics Department at Gallaudet University was also involved in this celebration, particularly on Twitter1 where a quick guide to DASL notation was disseminated and notations of ASL signs were periodically posted. Figure 1 shows a sprinkling of some of the ASL notations and signs that were shared.
Who Was Involved in the Event?
Since the impact of the DASL is exponentially huge, it is simply impossible to interview every person who has felt its impact. The people featured in this article represent a small slice of the American Deaf and signed language research communities. This list is not meant to be representative but to begin to provide an inkling of the immense impact DASL has had. For the list of participants in this article, we reached out to people who were at Gallaudet during the time of the development of the DASL (1961–1965) or the existence of the LRL (1971–1984), or are otherwise associated with these events.
In the next section, we alphabetically list brief biographies for each participant. Participants are identified as Deaf or hearing in the bios because such information is accessible at live events (a great deal of the information included here is taken from the live event in December 2015) but not in publications unless explicitly stated. Since this article will become a part of the historical record regarding DASL, the authors felt it was essential to describe the academic and Deaf/hearing identity of each participant. As is evident from the list of bios, there is a balanced mix of both Deaf and hearing participants, which we feel is cause for celebration given how early research was primarily conducted by hearing researchers. We hope the authors of the DASL would have found it a cause for celebration too.
Ben Bahan (Deaf) is a professor in the Department of ASL and Deaf Studies at Gallaudet University. Bahan specializes in Deaf Studies, ASL literature and linguistics, and sensory orientation studies. [End Page 564]
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Charlotte Baker-Shenk (hearing) was one of the authors of the original Green books”—a series of five texts including American Sign Language: A Teacher’s Resource Text on Grammar and Culture and American Sign Language: A Teacher’s Resource Text on Curriculum, Methods, and Evaluation and three students’ texts.
MJ Bienvenu (Deaf) is a professor in the Department of ASL and Deaf Studies at Gallaudet University. She specializes in semantics, lexicography, ASL screening, and curriculum development.
Dennis Cokely (hearing) is a professor at Northeastern University in the Department of ASL-English Interpreting. He directs the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures as well as the World Languages Center.
Harvey Corson (Deaf...