for the recognition of ASL as a foreign language in American colleges and

For the recognition of asl as a foreign language in

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for the recognition of ASL as a foreign language in American colleges and universities, where considerable headway has been made, making ASL the fifth most taught lan- guage in American higher education. 109 By the 1990s, the case for the linguistic status of sign language had long been made. <i>Open Your Eyes : Deaf Studies Talking</i>, edited by H-Dirksen L. Bauman, University of Minnesota Press, 2007. ProQuest Ebook Central, . Created from washington on 2019-09-21 14:41:03. Copyright © 2007. University of Minnesota Press. All rights reserved.
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18 H - D I R K S E N L . B A U M A N The implications of sign language research began to extend beyond educational poli- cies to encompass the fundamental questions of human identity and language-making capacity. Old questions could be asked in new ways, such as the eternally perplexing problem of the origin of language. Though it was a widely debated topic during the late eighteenth century, the Linguistic Society of Paris banned discussion of language origins in 1866, claiming that no evidence could be found to prove any one point of view. 110 The emergence of sign language linguistics, however, began to shed new light on this age- old problem. The hand, it seems, must have been present in order for signs to be linked with the world. How else could the link between sound and the world be forged? “Visible human movements,” writes Stokoe, “are not merely suffi cient for language but were ab- solutely necessary for making that first solid connection between sign and meaning.” 111 If this is the case, then the implications of manual languages extend beyond — but never lose sight of — the Deaf community, to reach into the very core of our humanity. The study of sign language also afforded researchers the rare opportunity to study just how languages are born and evolve. The founding of a deaf school in Nicaragua and the discovery of an emerging signing community using the Al-Sayyid Bedouin Sign Lan- guage in the Negev desert have allowed researchers to witness the emergence of a new language and to study its evolution in the fi rst generations of use. 112 On another scale, researchers have redefined our understanding of the neurological basis of language. As noted earlier, we now know that language processing is not dependent on sound, but rather on deeper neuronal patterning, whether triggered by sight or sound or touch. Without the emergence of sign language studies, these insights would not have been revealed to us with such clarity. The insights into the nature of human languages revealed by sign language studies and Deaf Studies have led to a popularity of sign language not experienced since the end of the eighteenth century. Ironically, while hearing individuals become enamored with the aesthetic and cognitive benefi ts of signing, deaf children are systematically de- nied access to sign language, creating the strange message that sign language is good for hearing people but bad for deaf. As William Stokoe notes, increased knowledge of ASL
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