All material is copyright Jim Cromwell from the date of posting unless otherwise specified

A Natural Language

Just a brief passage pinched from Lee Fullwood with good references evidencing BSL (or ASL) as the natural language of Deaf people. English does NOT have a visual grammar; it can describe visual things, which is completely different.

If signing is the chosen mode of communication, the large proportion of families will first have to learn it. Needless to say, the deaf child will often be exposed to a less than perfect delivery. Nevertheless, children exposed to manually encoded English (SE or SSE) have been shown to be able to refashion this system and move it in the direction of BSL, innovating signing forms similar to those characteristic of BSL (Brennan, 1987). Gee and Goodhart have also shown that American children, confronted with a poor signed input (often impoverished forms of manually encoded English), will generally innovate their own signed forms similar to those characteristic of American Sign Language (ASL) (in Sacks, 1989). Some researchers have also found that children can construct grammatically perfect ASL, even when they are exposed to imperfect variations of that language (Newport and Supalla, 1988 in Sacks, 1989; Singleton and Newport, 1993, in Pinker, 1994).

Brennan, M. (1987) British Sign Language: The Language of the Deaf Community, in Booth, T. and Swann, W. (Eds.) Including Pupils with Disabilities, Milton Keynes, Open University Press.

Pinker, S. (1994) The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language. New York, HarperCollins

Sacks, O. (1989) Seeing Voices. London, Pan Books.


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