LINGUIST List 8.1758

Sat Dec 6 1997

Disc: ASL as a foreign language

Editor for this issue: Brett Churchill <>


  1. Ellen L. Contini-Morava, ASL as a foreign language (part n)

Message 1: ASL as a foreign language (part n)

Date: Sat, 6 Dec 1997 11:07:23 -0500 (EST)
From: Ellen L. Contini-Morava <>
Subject: ASL as a foreign language (part n)

Dear Linguists,

The University of Virginia's Committee on Educational Policy and
Curriculum is currently discussing a proposal to allow American Sign
Language to count toward the undergraduate foreign language requirement.
The usual objections are being raised, familiar from discussions on this
list dating back to 1991. Since the number of people at U.Va. who
know anything about ASL can be counted on the fingers of one hand (none
of whom is on the Curriculum Committee), it would be very helpful 
if we could have some letters or e-mail messages in support of one or 
more of the following points made in our proposal:

a) that ASL is indeed a natural language, not an artificial or invented
language like Esperanto or a computer language;

b) that ASL is indeed different from English, not merely a manual
encoding of English;

c) that there does indeed exist a body of literature in ASL (poetry,
drama, narrative, folklore) even though this is not written, and in fact
that "literature" in general should not be defined narrowly as "written

d) that knowledge of ASL can provide students with an entree into a
community whose culture is different enough from mainstream American
hearing culture that their awareness of cultural diversity will be
enhanced by the experience.

[Note that we did give the Committee an extensive bibliography on all
these topics but people don't always take the trouble to educate

It would be especially helpful to hear from people at universities that
have accepted ASL in satisfaction of foreign language requirements, but
any and all support is welcome. Please send e- or snailmail to me and I 
will pass it on to the Chair of the Curriculum Committee.


Ellen C-M

Ellen Contini-Morava
Associate Professor
Department of Anthropology phone: (804) 924-6825
204 Brooks Hall fax: (804) 924-1350
University of Virginia e-mail:
Charlottesville, VA 22903
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