LINGUIST List 9.219

Fri Feb 13 1998

Sum: ASL/L1, L2

Editor for this issue: Martin Jacobsen <>


  1. Megan Elizabeth Melancon, Summary: ASL/L1, L2

Message 1: Summary: ASL/L1, L2

Date: Thu, 12 Feb 1998 23:36:37 -0600 (CST)
From: Megan Elizabeth Melancon <>
Subject: Summary: ASL/L1, L2

Last week I posted a query about American Sign Language and deaf
children with parents who spoke no English. The issue is what is
considered the child's L1 if his/her parents communicate (in whatever
fashion) in the 'foreign' language. This is the language the child
learns at a very early age. However, when the child goes to school,
he/she is exposed to both ASL and signed English, especially in
English classes (assuming the child is in the States, of course). I
was flamed for supposedly implying that ASL is just translated
English. Of course it is not, yet the signs are translated into
English (again, in the States). 

In addition, there were several respondents who suggested that the
terminology of 'mother tongue', L1, L2, etc. were not effective or
efficient. Suggested instead were 'primary language', 'family
language', 'family L1', 'secondary language' and 'language of

Two other issues arose. Lloyd Anderson said that (for deaf children
of hearing parents) "the mother tongue is not the same thing as the
language of the parents", and that a deaf child may "learn little bits
of things about a spoken language first", but they will not 'learn' a
spoken language first. Marie Egan said that deaf children, due to
their sometimes late exposure to a language "may not have a 'native
language'". Interesting in terms of innateness and Bickerton's

However, perhaps the most cogent response was the suggestion that this
discussion belongs on the Sign Language Linguistics list
(, so I'll end this with the suggestions
and references which were sent to me.

Many thanks to the following people (in order of appearance): Marie
Egan, Phoevos Panagiotid, Ben Karlin, Lloyd Anderson, Nancy Frishberg,
Lynn Santelmann, Shanley Allen, Sangeeta Bagga-Gup, Naomi Nagy, Doug
Stringham, Theresa B. Smith, Mark Mandel, Cindy Neuroth-Gimbrone.

Suggested authors:

Barbara Gerner de Garcia
Mary Jan Pollisco
Richard Meier
Rachel Mayberry (McGill Univ.)
Nini Hoiting (Gyuot Royal Institute)
Susan Goldwin-Meadow
Elissa Newport

Suggested Journals:

Sign Language Studies
Journal of Exceptional Children

Suggested internet:

Suggested Articles:

(all by Richard Meier, suggested by Naomi Nagy) 

"Language acquistion by deaf children", American Scientist 79:60-70

"Motoric constraints on early sign acquistion", Proceedings of the
Child Language Research Forum 29. Stanford: CSLI (in press, C. Mauk,
G. Rirus, K. Conlin, eds.)

"Silent mandibular oscilations in vocal babbling", Phonetica 54:153:171,
1997 (w/L. McGarvin, R. Zakia, R. willerman)

Megan Melancon
Louisiana State University
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