This course aims to integrate the history of ideas about American Sign Language (ASL) with research that has been done on the structure, learning, and historical change of ASL and other sign languages.
- Structure is crucial to languages. There are several layers of grammatical structure in all languages. We will learn about these and examine how sign languages are structured.
- Learning is how children and adults acquire the ability to understand and use a sign language.
- Change takes place over time in all languages. Recent research on historical change in ASL and other sign languages has begun to reveal how sign languages come into existence and how they change as they are used over generations among deaf and hearing users. We will look at historical change in depth, especially the historical heritage of ASL.
This course is a four-week self-paced course. Lecture videos are delivered in ASL with English subtitles and voiceover. The course will introduce all of these students to the science of sign language research and, for fluent ASL signers, the history and structure of their own language. It will also expose students at the intermediate level to the fields of linguistics and the cognitive sciences.
- Historical origins in natural gesture for the emergence of ASL grammar
- Degree and types of structural variation within ASL, considering the possible influences from its contacts with other signed and spoken languages
- Role of visual analogy in learning ASL, considering the possible linguistic universals for signed languages
- Ways in which language specific variation and historical change for signed languages may compare and contrast to those for spoken languages
- Visual, motoric, and cognitive constraints which may give rise to these phenomena