Re: language, gesture, ASL

Ruby Rohrlich (rohrlich@GWIS2.CIRC.GWU.EDU)
Tue, 13 Feb 1996 19:58:46 -0500

I coculdn't agree with you more, Eric. Have you seen "Children of a
Lesser God" either as a play or a movie? It provides tremendous insight
into the problems that Deaf people experience from hearing people who are
unaware. It's not new, but maintains its excellence. Ruby Rohrlich

On Tue, 13 Feb 1996, ERIC SILVERMAN wrote:

> Most people who study seriously ASL (I am not one of them), and certainly
> speakers of ASL who grew up in deaf families where the parents also used ASL
> and also went to ASL schools (hence, they learned ASL as a first language,
> rather than suffered through oral schooling and families), would reject
> outright the notion that signing is in some sense an earlier or more simple
> mode of communication than orality. For Deaf people (that is, people who refer
> to themselves as Deaf, with a capital D, rather than deaf with a lower case d,
> thus signifying ethnicity rather than simply their lack of hearing), this type
> of implication is at once a political statement that signals a history of
> oppression from the hearing community. In this sense, and regardless of our
> intentions in this discussion, we are unable from one perspective to divorce
> our notions from political implications.
> Furthermore, the notion that one can teach non-human primates ASL has been met
> with some anger and frustration in the deaf community, as it again implies that
> their mode of communication (ASL) is in some sense less sophisticated, nuanced,
> etc., than oral speech.
> I recall a recent posting that a colleague gave me from the physical anthro
> list in which students who had only ONE university course in ASL could join a
> project that claimed to be using ASL to communicate with chimps. Many deaf
> people would suggest that this is analogous to trying to teach a chimp--or even
> a person--another language, such as Spanish or Iatmul or whatever, based on
> only having taken one university course in it. I believe that this was
> recently critiqued in the book Aping Language, by an author whose name I
> presently cannot recall.
> Hope this is of some use,
> Eric Silverman
> DePauw Univ.
> I'm not certain if this is immediately germane to the topic, but I thought I
> would add it anyhow.