Assignment 2 - Deaf in America Vflim fram at(33:3:ny Carol...

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Unformatted text preview: Deaf in America Vflim fram at (33:3:ny Carol Padden Tum Humphries HHILHVJ'LHD UNI‘H'HHSI'I'Y PRESS Cambridge, Massachusttts Landon, England Introduction The traditional way of writing ahont Deaf people is to focus on the fact of their condition—that they do not hear—and to inter~ pret all other aspects of their lives as consequences of this limit. Our goal in this hook is to write alt-nut Deaf people in a new and different way. In contrast to the long history of writings that treat them as medical cases, or as people with "disabilities," who "compensate" for their deafness by using sign language, we want to portray the lives they live, their art and performances, their everyday talk, their shared myths, and the lessons they teach one antithet. We have always felt that the attention given to the physical condition of not hearing has obscured Far more inter- escing Facets of Deaf people's lives. Our exploration is partly a personal one: the lives of Deaf people include our own. Carol was horn deaf in a Deaf family. Her parents and her older brother are Deaf, as are a set of grandu parents and some other relatives. Torn, in contrast, became deaf as a child and did not meet other Deaf people until he entered a college for Deaf students. Our professional interests over the last ten years have aISo led us to this topic. We have both participated in a new generation of research on signed language. (Iatol has written technical descrip— tions of the structure of American Sign Language, and Tom has written about approaches to teaching English to Deafpeople that recognize signed language as a central instrument. 1|With our colleagues, we have uncovered significant details about signed 2 fittrarfrtctisti languages that had never been thought about before, let alone described. The sum of this research is that signed languages are far from the primitive gestural sysrems they had been assumed to be. instead they are rich systems with complex structures that reflect their long histories. Thinking about the linguistic richness uncovered in our work has made us realize that the language has developed through the generations as part of an equally rich cultural heritage. it is this heritage—-—the culture of Deaf peo— ple—that we want to begin to portray in this hook. Before beginning our journey through the imagery and pattetns, of meaning that constitute Deaf people’s lives, we must identify the community of "Deaf" people with which we are concerned. Following a convention proposed by James WotalwardiIW-E}, we use the lowercase deaf when referring to the audiolpgical condition of not hearing, and the uppercase Deaf when referring to a particular group of deaf people who share a language —_ r'inierican Sign Language {ASH—- and a culture. The members oi this group reside in the United States and {Ianada, have inherited their sign language, use it as a primary means ofcommuiucation among themselves, and hold a set of beliefs abouc themselves and their connection to the larger society. We distinguish them from, for example, those who find themselves losing their hear— ing because of illness, trauma or age; although these people share the condition of not hearing, they do not have access to the- knowledge, beliefs, and practices that make up the culture of Den people. As we will emphasize in subsequent chapters, this knowledge of Deaf people is not simply a camaraderie with others who have a similar physical condition, but is, like many other cultures in the traditional sense of the term, historically created and activelyr transmitted across generations. . 1ill’oodwarii's distinction, while useful, is not an entirely clear- cut one. For example, consider deaf children from hearing iam— ilies who encounter Deaf people and their culture outside the Introduction 3 family. fit what point are they said to have adopted the conven— tions of the culture and hecorne Deal-r This question also applies to the acculturation processes of deaf adults who, after spending many years apart from Deaf people, come to join the community at later ages. lvfarkowice and 1|lifoodward flflidl have suggested that self—identification with the group and skill in til-ll. should he important diagnostic fat‘tors in deciding who is Deaf. But the bounded distinction between the terms Deaf antl decaf represents only part of the dynamic of how Deaf people talk alt-out them— selves. Deaf people are both Deaf and deaf, and their discussions, even arguments, over issues of identity show that these two categories are often interrelated in complex ways. We explore these complexities in more detail in Chapter fl, including the eases of two groups who pose special problems for the culture: newly arrived deaf puttsons who have yet to learn the full range of skills required for the culture, and hearing children from Deaf families. iii newly arrived deaf person is often given one ofseveral borderline lahels, such as “hard of hearing," recognising his or her past affiliation with those who speak. Hearing children of Deaf parents represent an ongoing contradiction in the culture: they display the knowledge of their parents—-skil| in the lan- guage and social conduct—hut the Culture finds subtle ways to give them an unusual and separate status. nlso following Woodward, we use the term Deatfin this hook to refer to other cultures of people who do not heat and who use sign languages other than t'iE-iL. ln Quebec, for example, Deaf French Canadians use a different sign language, Langue ties Signes Que’becois. Nova Scotia has a community of Deaf people whose sign language is related to British Sign Language but not to ESL. in fact, in nearly every nation in the world there are several distinct groups of Deaf people, their diffEtences marked by political, historical, or geographical separation. r'ilrhough we recognize that there are many cultures of Deaf people, without detailed erhnographies of various groups we can— not offer generalizations about them or about the relationship 4 introdnr'r‘ion between the condition of not hearing and the formation of a culture. This book is about the Deaf culture we know best, our own. Even within the population of Deaf people who use ASL, not surprisingly, there is enormous diversity. Large communities of Deaf people in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Edmonton, Alberta, to give a few examples, have their own distinctive iden— tities. Within these local communities there are smaller groups organized by class, profession, ethnicity, or race, each of which has yet another set of distinct characteristics. Until about 19m, racial segregation in the larger society dictated that white and black deaf children in the southern states should attend separate schools. Although teachers in black deaf schools knew the white variety of ASL, the segregation led to the development of a distinct black variety, which is still used by black Deaf adults in certain regions ofthe South, although many also know the white variety {Woodward l‘El'ifi', Maxwell and Smith—Todd 1986}. Cities like Washington, D.C., and New York have large black Deaf clubs that are active centers for their communities. But all these subgroups of the category of Deaf people have in common the use of some variety of ASL. There are no reliable figures on the number of Deaf people in the United States and Canada. Health statistics lead to an esti- mate of the occurrence of “hearing impairment" in the general population at 9 percent (US. National Center for Health Statis— tics 198?}. But teasing out the smaller number of Deaf people from such estimates is difficult at best. Clne reason for this difficulty is that, as we have said, the fact of not hearing is not itself a determinant of group identity. Although the term "deaf" is the group's official label for itself, people who are Deaf can have a range of hearing abilities from “hard of hearing" to “profoundly deaf," and, conversely, there are people with severe or profound hearing impairmenl who do not participate in the community of Deaf people. Anot ~r reason is that there are no figures on the number of users of signed language in the United States and Canada. Based on estimates of fntmdncrios .5 numbers of people who attended schools where they were exten— sively exposed to Deaf people and signed language, and on the number of Deaf people known to social service agencies, there are estimates of the Deaf population in the neighborhood of a few hundred thousand. ' The unique pattern of cultural transmission within the group compounds the problem of estimating its numbers. Although somewhere between ll and all percent of deaf schoolchildren inherit their deafness, fewer than Ill percent are born to parents who are also Deaf. Consequently, in contrast to the situation in most cultures the great majority of individuals within the com— munity of D f people do not join it at birth. This unique pattern of transmission lies at the heart of the cul— ture. As will be seen in some of the stories in later chapters, one of its consequences is the central role the school plays in the community. Many of these stories refer to "residential schools," the type of schools most of today*s Deaf adults attended. These are boarding schools, usually state—funded, specifically for deaf children from as young as preschool through high school. Almost every state and province in the United States and Canada handed at least one "school for the deaf" between l31'r‘, the year the first public school for deaf children was founded, and lflflll [Schilrl- roth 19813; Gannon 1931}. Children attending these boarding schools typically terurn home only for weekends and holidays. Many older Deaf people spent large portions of their early lives at these schools, going home only at Christmas or during summers. Although there are some "oral" residential schools, which officially disallow the use of signed language, most residential schools are "manual" schools, in which signed language is ail- lowed in classrooms. Even in these schools, however, educational policy typically emphasizes speech and the English languagile; sign language and other practices of Deaf people are rarely given a central part in school policies. As some of the stories we have collected suggest, in subtle ways deafchildren manage to circum— (3 Introduction vent the will of "obstructionist" adults to teach one another the knowledge of Deaf people. . In many of these schools, deaf childrenspend years of their lives among Deaf people—children from Deaf families and Deaf adults who work at the school. Many schools are staffed to some extent by Deaf people who graduated from the same school or another one like it. For these deaf children, the most significant aspect of residential life is the dormitory. 1n the dormitories, away from the structured control of the classroom, deaf children are introduced to the social life of Deaf people. In the informal dormitory environment children learn not only sign language but - the content of the culture. In of the communities that surround them, preserving for the next generation the culture of earlier generations. The residential school is not the only avenue for introduction to the community. Some deaf children do not leave home to attend residential schools but, like both of us, stay home and go to public school with "the others," as hearing people are called. Tom remained among his hearing neighbors and relatives, and in various ways adapted to the demands of his school. Dnly later, as an adult, did he meet other Deaf people. in Carol's case, her Deaf parents and older brother attended residential schools, but be cause she is ”hard of hearing" she was judged to be more likely to withstand the demands of a ”speaking environment“ and went to public school instead. Each way of entering the community car— ries its own issues of identity and shared knowledge; we discuss these further in a later chapter. 5 i As we have said, one of the primary identifying characteristics of the group is its language. The history of the education of deaf children in America is marked by almost total ignorance, about the place of signed languages in the family of human languages, ignorance that has been translated in tragic ways into socjal and educational policy. But despite these pressures, American Sign _ g. . this way, the schools become hubs leirsn’ectieu 3-? language has had a durable history. lts origins can be traced to the emergence of a large community of deaf people centered around the first public school for deaf children in France, founded about lid]; the language that arose in this community is still. being used in France today. In 181?, a Deaf teacher from this school helped establish the first public school for deaf children in the United States. Although his language was incorporated into the early curriculum, the children’s own gestural systetns min— gled with the official signed language, resulting in a new form that was no [on ' r identifiable as French Sign Language. Some signs and structfiffes in ASL today still reflect their French Sign language origins, although the two languages are distinct. According to the common misconceptions about ASL, it is either a collection of individual gestures or a code on the hands for spoken English. But in fact, although ASL does use gesture, as English uses spund, it is not made up merely of gestures any more than English is made up merely of noises. Individual signs are themselves structured grammatical units, which are placed in slots within sentences according to grammatical rules. Signs are not a form of ”fingerspelling," a manual system in which a hand configuration is used to represent a letter of the alphabet. Al— though signers may fingerspell an English term or a name, the bulk of their signed communication‘ is made up not of fingers spelling but of signs, which are structured according to an em titely independent set of rules. To give just one example, ASL verbs can be divided into three major classes {Padden 1988b}. Verbs in one class can inflect for . person and number of both the subject and the object; these : include Give, salvo, TAKE, car-1114.] Those in another class do . not inflect for person and number at all; they include Lh'aRN, - l. Signs are represented by English translations in small capital letters. If more than one English word is needed to translate a sign. the words are joined by hyphens. Small capital let-recs joined by hyphens represent fingerspelled words or abbreviations. These translations. of course, can only be approximate, and triten do not express the Full range ofmcaning of the sign. 8 larradactrsa Like, visiT, TELEPHONE. Verbs in the third class also cannot inl'lect for person and number, but can take an extremely rich range of affixes.2 These verb forms, which demonstrate that A51. is For more complex than a mere system of gestures, also form one small part of a large body of evidence that it is not based on English. 'The set of rules for word formation—that is, the morphology—of ASL verbs does not resemble that of English verbs. English verbs inflect only for person and number of the reefer. Not all ASL verbs inflect for person and number, as we have said, but the ones that do largely inflect for person and number of the subject and the affect. Compared to other spoken languages, English has com-I pararively impoverished verb morphology; in contrast, some ASL verbs are as rich as those in spoken languages with complex verb morphology, such as Navajo and Southern Tiwa [Padden 1933b; Supalla [985; Klima et al. |9?9}. Another piece of evidence that ASL is independent of English can he found in its sentence structure. For example, in English it is correct to say either "I gave the book to him" or ”I gave him the book." But in ASL only the second structure, called the dative, is possible. The signed sequence i—oivE-nm MAN Book (“1 gave a man a book”) is correct, but IvGWE—HIM flflflK- MAN is ungrammatical {Padden lfldflbl. in this particular way ASL re— sembles not English but languages unrelated to English; such as the Mayan language, Tzotail [Aissen 1933}, which permit only dative structures. . Evidence like this is used by linguists to demonstrate that although signed languages and spoken languages diffetlin their forms, they do not differ in their sets of possible structuiies. ASL l 2. For short reviews of signed language structure see Holden ([5136, 19833}, 1Ill-'ilbur (lEI'lzl-IS], and Siple [151323; for more extensive reviews see teitts by Wilbur (1939, llil'hli'l, Kyle and Well [19331], Lane and Groaiean [1930}, Belliigi a Studilert— Ke:1netly [193D], lialtrr USEFUL Baker and Harrison (NEH). Klima et al. I[ Hill}, and. Siple [19TH]. These sources provide more extensive arguments supporting structures proposed for specific signed languages. Intestinal-or: 9 is unlike English in sentence structure, but its structures resem- ble those of other natural languages. The mistaken belief that ASL is a set of simple gestures with no internal structure has led to the tragic misconception that the relationship of Deaf people to their sign language is a casual one that can be easily severed and replaced. This misconception more than any; other driven educational policy. Generations of schoolchildren have been forbidden to use signs and compelled to speak. Other children have been urged to use artifieally modified signs in place of irocabulary fmm their natural sign language. This misconception has also found its way into the culture, as can be seen in the ways Deaf people talk about their language. Even though they talk of ASL as something highly valued, . — roost in the Emmi breath they may reason that if ASL does not qualify as a language, it follows that, for their own good, deaf children should give it up in favor of a "real" language, specifi— cally a spoken one, or at least a form of signing "based" on a spoken language. Despite the misconceptions, for Deaf people, their sign language is a creation of their hisrnry and is what allows them to fulfill the potential for which evolution has pre- pared them-—to attain full human communication as makers and users of symbols. A large population, established patterns of cultural transmission, and a common language: these are all basic ingredients for a rich and inventive culture. Yet in looking at written descriptions of Deaf people, we could find little about their cultural life. We could remember being profoundly moved by signed perfor— mances, but we found little analysis of the kinds of performances we had seen. We would listen to anecdotes told by our friends and feel a powerful resonance with our own lives, but we rarely saw anything about these experiences or these feelings in print. As many before us have observed, most descriptive materials about Deaf people's lives center around the condition of not iii introduction hearing. in a summary of papers on the subject written between 1975 and 1932, james 1'lllfoodward {1932} documents the exis— tence of a. widespread and powerful interpretation of Deaf people as "pathological” and “fundamentally deficient." This ideology has led students of the Deaf community to describe in detail the facts of hearing impairment, and to classify [leaf people in terms of the degree of their impairment. Other facts about them, nota- bly those about their social and cultural lives, are then inter; preted as consequences of these classifications. A classic example of this approach can be found in a survey of ”hearing impaired school leavers," or graduates from British- schools for deaf children. Rodda I: Will) categorized each hearing—_ impaired leaver according to heating type, then correlated hear-J ing type with a long list of social characteristics such as having a savings account, purs...
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