____?______ Culture

vlogblog about a new term for Deaf culture

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/f_zVNz6NdeE" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Discussion of why the word ‘d/Deaf’ can be problematic and examination of other options when describing our culture.

folks have been proposing new terms for Deaf culture or re-introducing old ones.

first i wanna thank them for doing this – it takes courage to propose ideas while it takes very little effort to cast stones

i want to discuss two things:
1. the term d-e-a-f
2. having any new term follow an organic and natural conceptualization

1. the term d/Deaf is somewhat problematic

a. deaf or Deaf will forever mean to the medical community a DEFICIT, a DEFICIENCY, and an ABNORMALITY. it is a medical condition

now granted some doctors may acknowledge a cultural component also but in general for the majority of society ALL OVER THE GLOBE – deaf means can NOT hear – ‘NOT’ being the central word not ‘can’ – this is deficit model

even the ASL sign ‘ear-mouth’ meaning ‘deaf-mute’ is an can NOT indicator and not a CAN approach (deficit model). Veditz used the term “people of the eye” which i think is an additive model

i am not trying to deny that d/Deaf people can not hear. im only trying to examine that coming from a medical / ‘can’t ‘center carries a stigma and in some folk’s minds a duty to correct, fix, improve, save..

we know historically other groups were saddled with words that developed a stigma and connotation that became shackles – the N word (which originally was used to mean a black slave) – if u read slave narratives, African-Americans use this term regularly – always with the concept that this was an “owned person”

thankfully today it is rejected by most people in society. some whites still use it and some African-Americans have tried to reclaim it in a weird twisted way by using it on each other for status and power assertion or “just to be funny” but most African-Americans reject the term – hence the NAACP had a funeral ceremony for the N word. may it rest in peace

so they tried on other terms such as Black and African-American – it seems both r generally accepted today and neither has really come out the winner / preferred term. I have not taken any specific courses in Black or African-American studies and i generally see universities use either term. if anyone has any knowledge in this area it would be appreciated

The terms negro and coloreds were commonly used in our society but were rooted in a stigma of being dirty, insufficient, inferior etc. There have been many writings in the past and not so distant past trying to assert the intellectual inferiority of African-Americans

the word d/Deaf will always be used by d/Deaf people – i would never advocate for abandoning it but when talking of a culture, it might be wise to consider other option as well since the dominant culture continues use and abuse d-e-a-f as we have seen done with negro, coloreds, and the ‘n’ word

words (spoken, written or signed) have power

b. the term d-e-a-f invites confusion due to the medical view and the cultural view both claiming ownership of this word. Dr. Woodward (hearing professor at Gallaudet) tried to indicate these different views by suggesting small d to reference a physical condition only and big D to mean a cultural view only. it has become generally accepted in academic publications to use D Deaf when referring to Deaf people as a people.

Within DeafRead we see vocal folks objecting to this distinction. some are calling for the use of small d only while others are calling for the use of D only

it is the sneetches with stars upon thars and those without indeed

i think woodward’s idea was well-intended – the problem it has created is that it requires judgment on my part – if i want to write about John Doe and mention he is d-e-a-f i have to figure out do i call him deaf only or Deaf only or what????

yuck – no thanks – im cool with folks deciding their own labels and identity but i have hard time being put in the position where im supposed to figure out who is what when i go to write out the word deaf hence ive taken to using d/Deaf – which is equally awkward and artificial

also the small d and big D controversy seems divorced from the academic understanding and usage of the term – instead it has come to mean big D means – someone who is STRONGLY CULTURALLY DEAF and this to many seems to mean MUST be from a Deaf family, Deaf school and use ASL. While literature often identifies these conditions to be optimal for being carriers of the culture, it is not at stated requisite. in fact many people from deaf parents may not be raised with ASL and may not attend a Deaf school. so in this way we have sadly seen the d/D thing become a way to exclude and conquer or diminish one’s sense of belonging

so those r 2 problems with the word d-e-a-f (dominant cultures understanding of the word and stigma attached and the battle over d/D)

2. Deaf culture or ASL culture

different names have been suggested instead to avoid the above problem with the word d-e-a-f
ASLAN / Amerisilan


again i commend the folks who r introducing this dialogue

i dont think in anyway they r rejecting their Deafhood by suggesting a moving away from the word d-e-a-f re: culture. they r just examining new ways of thinking and empowerment through Deaf folks deciding on a term to represent themselves from an additive model instead of the dominant society dictating it

one thing that puzzles me though is that the terms suggested seem really artificial and awkward also

i always appreciate when a Deaf group thinks in ASL first – meaning they see what feels good on the hands and looks good to the eye first and foremost

Deaf View / Image Art (De’VIA) – the term for Deaf themed art originated in this way – via ASL first then recorded to English

the English should be secondary not primary

so i was wondering – we have:
I speak French. I am French. I love French culture.
I speak German. I am German. I love German culture.
I speak Japanese. I am Japanese. I love Japanese culture.
I speak Russian. I am Russian…

would ASL culture work? plain and simple without all the artificially added stuff ending stuff? i know others have suggested it before so its not a new idea

i was thinking about how a Deaf person would tell me they r a strong ASL user when discussing language rights – often they would sign “ASL me” that seems very organic and natural

some folks have suggested the term sign language community before – a community is very broad – right now we say deaf community and i think it is fitting because it does include non-signing deaf people

for culture – ASL culture or Sign Language culture seems to work in many ways. Now this term would NOT exclude late deafened folks, folks with CI, folks who were raised orally and learned sign late, folks who were raised more with sim-com etc. they would and could still be part of ASL culture if:
1. they used ASL,
2. they valued ASL and believed it to be equal to spoken languages,
3. they exhibit behavioral norms re: ASL people,
4. they practiced traditions / heritage associated with ASL (ABC / # stories and folklore etc) celebrated honored key Deaf figures who advocated for sign language rights and recognition, etc,
5. and cherished ASL possessions (ASL lit – poetry, storytelling, folklore, performance, Deaf themed art (De’VIA), Deaf cinema, etc)

if they prefer not to value ASL culture – that is FINE and their right – they just shouldnt try to obstruct others from enjoying it. There will always be the larger deaf community. nor should anyone in ASL culture try to coerce others to comply with their culture if they prefer not to be part of it

Deaf or ASL culture (which ever u want to call it) exists within the deaf community and the deaf community exists within the larger hearing society

the one concern i have with the term ASL culture is that i really liked the collective potential of an international sense of what it means to be a person of the eye – Deafhood etc so in using the term ASL – it is confining to countries / places that use ASL. I would not want to see ASL culture to become a dominantor or oppressor or colonizer of other native sign languages (as it already has begun to do in some places)

We could say Sign Language culture but i think the concern there is that it might mean any type of sign system and not real sign languages

what do u think?

sorry for the long post

NOTE: i videotaped myself discussing these concepts for a full vlog but my macbook pro built in camera is still a problem – looks fine while recording but when editing the lighting adjusts on its own constantly – must be a setting. Also i went on too long for the medium of vlogs and also HATE to see myself on film – really im much more creative behind the lens than in front of it ; ). so i apologize for discussing this important topic in text English only – its ironic and a bit contradictory to be blogging in ENGLISH about ASL and Deaf culture due to this tech problems

sorry this entry is not a good example of bi/bi philosophy

patti durr

ella just posted a vlog on Deaf culture and membership / aspects that she had filmed before this blog went up – definitely worth a viewing http://www.ellasflashlight.com/?p=67


46 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Aidan Mack
    Jan 05, 2008 @ 11:04:06

    Like I said in the comment at ASLpride’s blog:

    “The words of “ASLan” and “Deaf” have many pros and also have some cons.

    Let’s focus on ASLAN/ (ASLIAN) since we know what are the cons about using “Deaf” with a big D: Many people feel that using ASL is for cavepeople or apes. They feel that ASL is a primitive language. Once you label yourself as an ASLAN, people would think that you are stuck in primitive level. That’s why many (ignorant) people look down on ASL. One of main factors why the oralism exists is because they wrongful assume that ASL is a primitive language that used by cavepeople and apes.

    One of the examples that many people make fun of Deaf people when they use their hands to communicate. It is rare to see people making fun of them being deaf (in a medical term).

    However, it does not mean we lose hope, we have many potentials to bring the positive views of the Deaf community. Keep up with good work.”


  2. Deb Ann
    Jan 05, 2008 @ 11:19:52

    I am Deaf, I use ASL, I don’t speak, and I LOVE ASL. It is just me. Thanks for bringing up the topic and it is a good discussion and I don’t know what to answer because I am new to the topic.

  3. drmzz
    Jan 05, 2008 @ 11:23:29

    I think no matter how you present it, certain populations will not embrace “ASL” or “Deaf” terms despite inclusion. They have emotional issues.

    ASLAN or ASLIAN, I am under the impression shifts the focus on person’s linguistic ability rather than auditory-speech conditions. We are *people of language* rather than people of conditions. Just like Indians are people of the land. I understand these guys want to change this old perception.
    I think this approach should offer an interesting social shift in perception of signing people that requires respect. People will now know it is language, not hands flapping of some sorts.

  4. Katherine
    Jan 05, 2008 @ 11:36:19

    I certainly hope that deaf people learn to replace “speak” with “sign” when identifying which signed language they use in their own country. For example,

    “I sign _________.”

    Some people still have a bad habit of using “speak” when identifying one of signed languages they use.

  5. Alison
    Jan 05, 2008 @ 11:51:16

    The issue with using Aslan – or any variation of this – it does not acknowledge any common denominators shared with sign language people from other countries. You are already making an assumption that ASL is an indigenous language everywhere.

    Are we going to go down the road of labeling BSLan, AUSLAN (already in use), [pick a random sign language here]. That’s going to lead to problems when it comes to the organisation of something like WFD.

    If we’re going down the road of labeling something associated with ASL, then we ever killer language territory or the possible oppression of other existences outside the States. Something that is too notable in mainstream culture.

    Don’t get me wrong, I agree that there’s a lot of weighted meanings behind the term “deaf”, a discussion we’ve had in the UK many a time, but what to replace it with …?

  6. Platonic's Eye
    Jan 05, 2008 @ 11:58:52

    ASLian is wrong for us as a Deaf Community because of difficult to define what is the culture and Deaf. Okay ASLian is a group of Malays and penisula of Thailand they speak in ASLian they have their own language and culture call ASLian. I agree that Deaf and Culture will not be embraced as long as we have our own Deaf Community’s own defination of what Deaf and Culture!!! I do not change the way we do in our daily life with Being Deaf and Culture.

  7. Brian Riley
    Jan 05, 2008 @ 12:16:20


    This is really interesting, because it appears that Edward Miner Gallaudet already capitalized the “D” in “Deaf” in following the normal grammatical rule of English to capitalize proper nouns. It might have seemed uncontroversial to him that there was a specific group of people in the world (i.e., who we call “culturally Deaf”) who should be referenced by use of a proper noun.

    Take a look at this excerpt that appears on Google Books of one published version of a speech that EM Gallaudet wrote:


    The full quote can be seen here:



    I had at that time in my mind the purpose to bring about, somewhere, the establishment of a college for the Deaf; and I unfolded my plans to Mr. Kendall…


    Now compare that with a different published version that appeared in the American Annals of the Deaf:


    The American Annals editor made it lower case!

  8. anonn
    Jan 05, 2008 @ 12:18:12

    Thanks, Patti, for bringing this up. It seems you’re discussing two different concepts and sort of mixing them.
    1. A PERSON using ASL
    2. The ASL-using community
    Which one are you addressing? Its not quite clear to me. Thanks. *smile*

    Here is what I tried to post on Aslpride’s site and couldn’t because I found it IMPOSSIBLE to sign up for a Google/Blogger account. If Aslpride truly wants dialogue, s/he really needs to allow anonymous comments but use the moderation function so s/he can be sure dialogue remains civil.

    To Aslpride:
    I’m impressed with your maturity and taking the topic off Patti Durr’s blog when she requested that you do so. 🙂

    That said, I commend your effort to think differently. I cannot agree with it, though.

    For one thing, your definition includes a verb that is a person. There’s no such thing. By definition, a person is a noun. And according to English rules, anything ending in an “ian” or “an” is a noun or an adjective.

    Nitpicking aside, this term is an attempt to re-label. I don’t like it. The colored/Negro/black/African-American ethnic group has gone through this process. As it stands, if I understand correctly, the terms colored and Negro have been discarded, but the community does not agree on whether they are black or African-American, which, frankly, is confusing for everyone who doesn’t want to offend this group.

    We as a community are *already* debating what we should label ourselves – capital D, lowercase, is HoH a viable term? Etc, etc. Now another label? What’s worse, this term purports to include EVERYONE who uses ASL. Fine, but how do we separate those who hear from those who don’t? What label shows that clearly? Also, what label do we use for other countries? LSMian? LSFian? LSQian? SSLian? (with or without the “i” – the idea is the same) This label is very Ameri-centric to me and shows a lack of respect for Deaf communities worldwide, in my opinion.

    So… Nice try, but no cigar. I’m sticking with Deaf, but Deaf includes everyone, not just a subset of the community.

  9. Sean
    Jan 05, 2008 @ 12:22:28


    -WOW- What a good post!!! I’m sharing this with my wife and few friends. Allow us discuss about this more further.

    The main point is, I feel ya!


  10. Aidan Mack
    Jan 05, 2008 @ 12:52:47

    Hi: I found the resource about ASLian/ASLan might be a problem about how people would interpret these words as negative.

    “The language Koko uses, American Sign Language, or Ameslan as it is called by the deaf for whom it is a primary mode of communication, is the fourth most commonly used language in the United States.”

    Look the word of “primary mode of communication” and “Ameslan”.



  11. Brian Riley
    Jan 05, 2008 @ 12:55:35

    My understanding is that Bernard Bragg introduced the term “Ameslan” years ago in order to refer to mixed ASL/signed-English signing–but the term never really caught on.

  12. Joseph Pietro Riolo
    Jan 05, 2008 @ 13:09:11

    Perhaps, we can consult the wealth of root words to help us form a new term. Here is a term that I thought of: chirosemac. “chiro” comes from a Greek word meaning hand. “sema” also comes from a Greek word meaning sign. “ac” is only a suffix to make the term an adjective. Combining those words together gives “chirosemac” (eliminating the double a’s at the end). A chirosemac culture means that a group of people uses hands as the primary means for expressing signs.

    This is just a thought to show that we can use the root words to create a new word. I have no strong feelings about the need for a new term.

    Commenting on comment #7 made by Mr. Brian Riley: One should also note that the word “blind” is also capitalized. We should be very cautious in interpreting Edward Miner Gallaudet’s intended meaning of “Deaf” resisting the temptation to import our modern views into it.

    Joseph Pietro Riolo

    Public domain notice: I put all of my expressions in this post in the public domain.

  13. DE
    Jan 05, 2008 @ 13:14:29

    Umm.. pondering this. If I, a white man, uses Japanese Sign Language, do I call myself Japanese? No. Nor if I speak French, do I label myself French?

    While this discussion is worthwhile, and necessary, I do not want to use a label that cuts me off from the rest of the Deaf in the world.

    There must be a way where Deaf people are still recognized worldwide, and as a group.

    Still keeping an open mind on this discussion! 🙂

  14. Mishkazena
    Jan 05, 2008 @ 13:35:17

    Recently I did suggest about the need to think about changing the word Deaf to ASL in referring to Deaf culture as it seems there are a lot of conflicting views of the word deaf. But another person told me, leave it alone. So I dropped the idea

  15. Barb DiGi
    Jan 05, 2008 @ 13:54:02

    Glad you are carrying this dialogue torch, Patti! After viewing Sean’s and ASLPride’s v/blogs, it got me thinking since yesterday.

    I agree that the last thing we need is labels. But it is still important to me when it comes to describing ourselves as a group. (note: I am focusing on descriptions, not labels.)

    Last year right after the Gallaudet protest, I had engaged in a debate with my hearing neighbor when he disputed that there was no such thing as a Deaf culture. After pointing him out that we have enriched, visual and natural language of our own, it qualifies us as a culture then he finally gave in. (of course there were other things that makes it a culture). Anyways, it made me wonder..why say Deaf culture since it doesn’t give away the focused meaning of a linguistic minority term in the first place.

    So, I agree that this dialogue is important on how we present ourselves to make it clear as possible that we are not somewhat described as a clincial conditional group but a linguistic group.

    Unfortunately, some of us feel that the term Deaf is often misunderstood generally by hearing people as opposed to when presenting ourselves as a cultural minority group. This is when I understood where Sean came from when he vlogged about this idea to propose the ASLian name. However, this name is already taken by the Malaysia/Thailand people like the Platonic’s Eye has mentioned. Hence, it will cause some confusion.

    If we want to include international Deaf people, we can say ” Natural Sign Language Culture”. I added natural as an emphasis that it doesn’t include communication modes such as manually coded language. NSLians?

    What is nice about this term is that it includes hearing people (such as CODAs, interpreters, etc.) who use ASL and even oral people who may not have mastered ASL but values like Patti had described above. As for Deaf Culture, it qualifies those who are Deaf, from residential schools and Deaf families, etc. so in a way it does separates us more than those who actually use ASL but doesn’t meet these “requirements”.

    I want to make it clear that Deaf will always be here to stay but I don’t see anything wrong by being creative to come up with a description by focusing on the Natural Signed Language usage of the culture.

  16. Platonic's Eye
    Jan 05, 2008 @ 14:04:46

    My challenge question: Who are we, Deaf Community? No identity, no language, then what people are we?

  17. Jenny
    Jan 05, 2008 @ 14:27:06


    So because I’m not from a deaf family, I’m not part of Deaf Culture, even though I sign with native-like proficiency, graduated from one of the best schools for the Deaf, graduated from Gally, and work at CSD Fremont?

    I thought we were trying to *get away* from the idea that Deaf Culture has an impossible set of standards “in order to qualify.” Yes, there should be standards, including shared values, experiences, and language, but we shouldn’t tie enculturation to graduating from a deaf school, going to Gally, nor insist on one being acculturated by their Deaf families.

    Hmm? *smile* and peace

  18. pdurr
    Jan 05, 2008 @ 14:37:31

    awesome discussion

    i think u all r uncovering the strengths and weakeness of the various options for filling in the blank of
    ___?_____ culture

    what word works best – no clear winner is emerging yet

    re: someone using ASL – this does not make s/he a member of the culture – just because u know a language does not make u a person of that group – u have to also have the other characteristics of a culture (language, values/beliefs, norms of behavior, traditions/heritage, and possessions)

    I speak English but im not English. I know French but im not French. I know hebrew but im not Jewish

    the same can be true of “I am deaf but i’m not ASL”

    if folks feel its important to distinguish a Deaf ASL person from a hearing person who knows ASL then i guess they would have to say Deaf ASL culture but really for a hearing person to have the 5 characteristics internalized culturally they would need to be a CODA me think and several books have pondered about the place of CODAs within the culture (Ladd, Padden and Humphries etc)

    re: use of ASL culture (or a similiar variant) – i too have concerns that it can be perceived as AMERICAN-centric

    not sure of a good organic and originating term in international sign

    it might just be best to survey folks in sign – ask them how would u describe urself culturally and see what signs they use – the signs that get used the most often should be examined and considered carefully

    again im really interested in looking at and exploring terms that would originate in sign FIRST then english, greek, portuguese or whatever spoken/written language later

    at the end of the day we might return right back to Deaf – smile but the journey will be worthwhile and educational

    thanks for ALL ur comments – awesome insights and POVs

    ill try to post something up re: the distinction between the deaf community and Deaf culture as i understand it soon just FYI



  19. Platonic's Eye
    Jan 05, 2008 @ 14:39:27

    Who sets the standard of Deaf Culture? I am not from DOD I myself grew up in dual culture myself, however I still become so involved with DOD myself I love because I find there are very rich experience in that culture. They helped me to find my own identity. My family are hearing they are my blood yes, but they are not my people!!!

  20. pdurr
    Jan 05, 2008 @ 14:51:01

    oh platonic eye im so glad u typed this

    “they are my blood yes, but they are not my people!!!”

    that is really cool how u wrote it. i believe ur family is still ur people but u also have a whole other family and people – u r bicultural / bilingual (if not multi – dont know ur background)

    i want to reiterate that my understanding of what constitutes Deaf culture – is NOT
    must be from Deaf family
    must be from Deaf school

    often it happens that folks from Deaf family’s and Deaf schools carry the culture – they are a vital and important group and serve an amazing role in preserving SL culture

    however being from a Deaf family does not automatically mean one signs native SL and going to a Deaf school does not automatically mean one will be fluent in SL

    also it is my understanding that folks who come to SL culture later in life r to be WELCOME –
    – where have u been? we’ve missed u

    the standard for Deaf or SL culture as i understand them are:
    – a real SL is a MUST
    – shared values and beliefs
    – shared norms of behavior
    – shared traditions and heritage
    – shared possessions

    (hmmm looks familiar to me – smile)

    judging from everything ive seen on barb’s vlog – i think perhaps what she typed in comment 15 was with the understanding that it is the “PERCEPTION of what Deaf culture is” but i will not speak for her

    hopefully she will pop back in at a later point and respond to Jenny’s (17) and Platonic’s Eye (19) questions

    note: im using SL to mean Sign Language to avoid specify any one country’s SL but im definitely not meaning a sign system – hence the L for language

    peace much

  21. Brian Riley
    Jan 05, 2008 @ 15:06:01


    EM Gallaudet was using the grammatical rules of English when he wrote “the Blind,” because he was referring to a specific group of people, not a *general type* of person.

    To say “blind children” (lower case) is to refer to a *type* of person. It could be any blind person from the past, present or future–or even a blind person in fictional writing. However, if one writes “the Blind” (upper case), that means one is referring to a specific group of people.

    This is not putting modern views onto someone in the past, because the rule for capitalization of proper nouns has existed in the English language for centuries.

    Woodward was not proposing anything new or different when he suggested writing “Deaf” with a capital D. He was merely pointing out that it was correct to do so in referring to culturally Deaf people as a specific group (not a type). This type of capitalization was not an innovation on his part, but is just a normal part of the English language.

    If someone frets over to whether to write “deaf” or “Deaf” in referring to a friend, that has nothing to do with James Woodward and it has everything to do with the facts of the situation which exist as they are which cannot be changed by using different language. Either a person uses ASL and that person has been influenced by the culture and values of the particular group of people in question, or not.

  22. Dianrez
    Jan 05, 2008 @ 15:22:25

    The Little People designation came from people who had dwarfism or who were called “midgets” and hated these expressions.

    It was because people equated dwarfism and being midgets with a deviation from the norm, a disability. Being a Little is not suggestive of disability, but more “normal” sounding.

    Like Deaf people, Little People have their own culture, some have heritage, and all like to get together formally and informally for many social events.

    Perhaps we could seek a term that implies normalcy rather than the disability.

    “Seeing People” is one example. “Silent People” another possibility.

    We should find a term that includes all people whether or not Culturally Deaf, but who share the same experiences as a minority within an overwhelmingly hearing majority.

  23. pdurr
    Jan 05, 2008 @ 18:10:56

    brian – ill have to hunt down woodward’s sources when he introduced d and D – its a bit different than how EMG is using it me think – but i gotta check

    regardless – i love primary sources so thanks

    by the way Veditz’s text speech for Preservation of Sign Language (1913) uses deaf-mutes and the deaf (always lower case)

    of note is how many authors of that time used the term “the sign language” or ” the natural language of sign”

    i believe American was not added to it until Stokoes

    Veditz’s speech is cool because while he surely knew the sign languages of other countries were different he say them as brothers/sisters facing linguistic oppression and a birth right of Deaf children in the education system

    re: Bernard Bragg and the term AMESLAN – interesting ive always seen Fant credited – maybe because he was the most visible / vocal in promoting the term?

    right now with the ground swell of a Deafhood collective consciousness we will see many same thoughts, ideas, and questions emerging amongst us. claiming me first, me first, etc i dont know if really that helpful – unless u have been cheated out of a patent like Gray by Bell

    at the same time – i do want to have accurate information to the best of my abilities so i removed any name next to AMESLAN in the post



  24. pdurr
    Jan 05, 2008 @ 18:22:02


    re: seeing people – i know folks have suggested this before (bahan i think wrote about it years ago)

    some folks argue – what about Deaf-blind and aren’t hearing people (those not blind) seeing people also?

    silent people – hmmmm i kinda hate the use of the word silent associated with Deaf folks – cuz they generally are not silent – they r pretty noisy smile and also it often conjurs up a sentimental / pitying view by the dominant culture “the silent people” oh pity / shame etc

    however – i know Deaf folks have used Silent themselves alot “the silent worker” etc

    i once watched a TV news program of the Deaf people who escaped the twin towers on 9/11 – my students and i counted how many times the news narrator used the term “silent” and other very “OH MY GOSH THOSE POOR D-E-A-F PEOPLE” – dont recall the # but it was embarassingly high

    others may really like silent people so i dont want to dis the idea at all

    just not sure if it promotes a cultural view

    re: little people, midget, and drawfs – there is a lot of controversy within this community as to what term is preferred too (from what i understand). little people seems to be the current favorite by most. i dont know if they constitute a culture but definitely a community and again not all Little people opt to be members of this community

    thanks for ur ideas – again im always happy to see folks thinking and willing to toss out ideas

    we r all thinking out loud

    i think where the term d-e-a-f hit me was seeing all the controversy and postings about the UK HFEB (unfamiliar? head over to http://stopeugenics.org/2007/12/05/1st-stop-video/)

    just seeing the very bigoted statements by some folks – clearly viewing deaf as an abomination broke my heart

    hard to convince folks of a culture if u have a medical term labeling urselves – even if u capitalize it it still spells d-e-a-f and try getting any media outlet to capitalize Deaf beyond the headline (costumary to cap all words) – no way



  25. pdurr
    Jan 05, 2008 @ 18:23:29

    u might want to check out
    http://www.ellasflashlight.com/?p=67 if u havent seen it

    Ella shares her thoughts on Deaf culture and membership – should help dispell the notion that u must be DOD or D of Deaf school etc

    Attitude, Values and Language are key – regardless of what we call it



  26. Brian Riley
    Jan 05, 2008 @ 20:04:31

    The point I was trying to drive home, is that, whether he specifically indicated this or not, Woodward’s upper-case-D proposal is based on the grammatical rule in English that says that upper-case letters are used for proper nouns (i.e., names.) So the capitalized word “Deaf” is not an ordinary, common noun. It is a name.

    Names are used to designate specific objects or specific groups of people and/or objects. The name “Deaf” then refers to all the specific people who are part of Deaf culture.

    There’s no magic involved in Woodward’s proposal. Establishing a new term or new usage doesn’t change reality. It just changes the way we *describe* reality.

    In reality, people either use ASL and they are part of or associated with other people who do (and the related values)–or they don’t. Changing terminology will not affect the reality of the situation per se, although new terminology might motivate people to learn ASL and become acculturated.

    This is one of Lennard Davis’ embarrassing mistakes in an article he wrote for the Chronicle of Education. He thought that Deaf culture was somehow “created” in 1988 simply because people sat down and decided that deaf people should be recognized as having a culture. He was fooled because Jordan was portraying DPN as being a “disability rights” campaign that somehow spontaneously sprang into being. He was reluctant to admit the truth, which was the DPN was actually a part of the Deaf Culture Movement which had already been going on for decades, or even possibly hundreds of years.

  27. Bobby Lopez
    Jan 05, 2008 @ 20:48:58

    I am fully Deaf. I am strong ASL. I really can’t speak. I am very proud Deaf and kiss fist ASL. I am Hispanic and Deaf culture/Hispanic culture but sorry, I do not understand to read only spanish. Let me explain to you True Story so Hearing people that are spanish-speak don’t like it when other Hispanic people (hearing or Deaf) do not understand Spanish. Sometimes they are pissed off that other Hispanic people don’t know spanish. that is true. But my parent and my sister never use sign language and only speak spanish and English so I notice my parent and my sister really love hispanic people hearing culture better than me. I already know. I do not care so I have many friends Deaf and Deaf culture that is no problem. My wife is fully hearing but yes, She know how ASL because of me Deaf/ASL but She do not understand spanish. My wife is white. She was not happy with my parent and my sister because They never use sign language. yes, that was shame.
    Thumbs up!!
    Thanks for sharing,
    Bobby Lopez

  28. pdurr
    Jan 05, 2008 @ 20:59:37


    mucho gracias for sharing ur experiences

    i think the multi-cultural Deaf experience has much to teach us

    ur story has many important points




  29. Barb DiGi
    Jan 05, 2008 @ 21:50:07


    What you said agreed with me. I am just speaking from a traditional view of what does it take to be a full-fledged member of the Deaf Culture (growing up in a residential school, being raised in a Deaf family, etc.) It doesn’t mean that I totally agree on who gets to be qualified. Oh junk that!

    So allow me to turn the table..you were enrolled in a fine Deaf school for the most of your elementary/secondary school years while I got to spend most of my school years in a public type of school (it was not even a mainstreaming program!). Although I came from a Deaf family but not having this component of the “Deaf” culture doesn’t mean that I am not automatically part of this culture.

    In order to be a part of the culture according to Padden, it means “a group of people who have their own language, values, rules of behavior, and traditions.”

    So get this..I found a quote from http://www.aslinfo.com/deafculture.cfm:

    “Going back to residential schools, these schools provide a vital link in the transmission of Deaf Culture and Language. Children here are able to communicate in a language readily understood by each other. Deaf children are able to partake in social clubs, sports and importantly enough, to be around deaf role models. It is important for deaf children to be encouraged to further their education and to learn that deafness does not mean you cannot grow up to be successful and happy (success of course being at each persons own perspective on what success and happiness means to them individually.) This is not to say that mainstream education is iniquitous for deaf children, but we must keep in mind that socialization is essential to a child’s growth and without a common language socialization is limited.”

    Even though I did not get to be enrolled in a Deaf school, I was surrounded by Deaf role models in the community. I even attended a Deaf school to watch games and participated in Jr. NAD.

    An X culture is not necessarily for one to be born in it but to be exposed to it in their lifetime. In conclusion, it doesn’t matter HOW but as long as one gets to be acculturated.

  30. Jean Boutcher
    Jan 05, 2008 @ 22:36:47

    Brian in #11:

    Hi Brian, Ameslan and Ameslish were coined in the late 1960s by the late Lou Fant and Bernard Bragg respectively. They were shortened for the “American Sign Language” and for American Signed English respectively. The latter was short-fused. Subsequently, ASL, shortened for Ameslan, was adopted. To the best of my recollection, the article about Ameslan may have appeared in “American Deaf Magazine”.

  31. Jean Boutcher
    Jan 05, 2008 @ 22:39:50

    Joseph Riolo in #12:

    (A): Gallaudet University named its literary magazine, Manus, after a Latin root for hands. This name honours deaf poets and prosers for being able to express their feelings, thoughts, and ideas NOT by signing but by epistling VIA the ink, the typewriter with which they use their hands.

    (B): I wish to draw your attention about capitalised letters. If you did research in the Rare Manuscripts Room in the Library of Congress or handwritten deeds and wills in courthouses, you would be surprised to see capitalised letters in the middle sentences written in the late 17th century and throughout from the 18th to the late19th centuries.

    American settlers of over 100 tongues learned English and were heavily influenced by German settlers who used capitalised letters for specific people and objects like Cow, Son, Baby, Dollar, House, Oak Tree, Money, ad infinitum, in middle sentences.

  32. Jean Boutcher
    Jan 05, 2008 @ 22:50:17

    Patti in #25,

    Hi Patti,

    You make some people’s day!

  33. Jenny
    Jan 06, 2008 @ 11:41:52

    Hi Patti,

    Thank you so much for your response! *smile* I’ve seen Ella’s entry, yes. You, Ella, and I have essentially the same understanding of what it means to be culturally Deaf, based on our studies. My query to Barb was based on how she phrased it. She appeared to be reeling off a list of what is required to be culturally Deaf. Thanks again – ‘prechate your taking the time!


    I don’t see a Penny commenting here, but on the chance that you’re responding to my query, thank you. 🙂 You and I indeed have the same understanding of Deaf culture. Thanks again for taking the time to respond.

  34. pdurr
    Jan 06, 2008 @ 12:44:15

    Barb – thanks for clarifying
    loved your “oh junk that”

    Jean – re: Ameslish – i forgot that one
    re: Manus – ill have to check out Manus – if u know of any online pls sent me a link (if not too much trouble)
    re: origins of caps – thanks – i think Brian is still loyal to his view re: Gallaudets use of Deaf – i want to check out some writings i have seen from earlier times and see how and when they use cap D – so ive been pretty quiet on that topic as i would need to have my eyes open wider to see if i see what Brian is saying. he is a good detective

    Jenny – not Penny 😉
    thanks for checking back in and commenting. im really glad u poised your question to Barb cuz other folks r inclined to have read it that way also. Very glad barb came back to respond



  35. Jean Boutcher
    Jan 06, 2008 @ 13:31:42

    Sure thing! I will send you
    a copy of Manus. I published some of Ella Lentz’s poems in ASL in Manus. Please send me
    your physical address.

  36. Joseph Pietro Riolo
    Jan 06, 2008 @ 16:13:30

    Responding to comment #31 made by Ms. Jean Boutcher:

    I thought about the root word “manu” when I was thinking of a new word but I decided to discard it for two reasons. One reason is that its connotation is to make something like manufacture, manuscript or like that rather than using hand as a tool for communication. Other reason is that it does not come from a Greek word like “sema”. It is all my preferences.

    My point for mentioning a new word is to encourage people to think outside of the box, so to speak. If any of the common words does not serve, one does not have to force himself or herself to pick a common word. He can go and create a new word using root words.

    I think that the title “Manus” was selected only because of its meaning as hand without any regard to writing. If the literary magazine intended to associate hand with writing, it could have chosen “Manuscript” because “script” means writing and associating it with “manu” means that writing is done by hand. I think that the literary magazine chose “Manus” for artistic purpose only. By the way, the Greek term for writing is “graph” as in “grapheme” and to use “chiro”, “chirography”.

    If anyone looks up the definition of “manus”, he could be surprised at its definition as used in the Roman law. It means power over other people such as husband over wife. It is definitely not a helpful word for the oppressed peoples.

    Regarding capitalizing some words, the Declaration of Independence is peppered with many capitalized words that appear anywhere in the sentence after the first word. Only the context can inform us what each capitalized word really means. In case of Edward Miner Gallaudet’s use of the capitalized word “Deaf”, it does not mean anything relating to culture. All it means is a group of deaf people who attends a college or school or it means that a school or college is designed for a group of deaf people. Nothing more, nothing less.

    In any way, thanks for the interesting information about the influence of German language on the use of capitalized words.

    My general comment on the discussion: If I get the correct impression, it seems that the goal of the discussion is to redefine the meaning of Deaf culture. I don’t know if this is wise or not but I think that the motivation to redefine the meaning is mostly political – trying to include more people rather than excluding people according to some measuring rods. Again, I don’t know if this is wise or not but it should be noted that this is vastly different from the attempt to define a culture based on ethnographic studies. When someone tries to redefine the Deaf culture, he or she should support it with some sound ethnographic studies. If I get the wrong impression, disregard this comment.

    Joseph Pietro Riolo

    Public domain notice: I put all of my expressions in this post in the public domain.

  37. pdurr
    Jan 06, 2008 @ 17:08:01

    jean – thanks – look forward to getting a copy

    joseph – thanks for ur comments re: word origins and caps

    re: if the discussion is to redefine Deaf Culture – i see it more as an attempt to re-visit what Deaf Culture really is and also to discuss if the title really indicates what Deaf Culture is

    My attempt was not to REDEFINE the meaning of Deaf culture – as i noted in the blog entry there are MANY great books, dissertations, visual histories that assert what Deaf Culture is

    none of them say you must be Deaf of Deaf or you must come from a Deaf school

    however, ASL is a critical component of Deaf Culture and it just so happens that many folks (not all) who come from Deaf parents and/or Deaf schools have strong ASL

    So i dont think anyone was attempting to RE-define Deaf culture to mean something that has not been asserted by academic scholars (some using ethnographic methodologies some using more loose observations and measures of study) but certainly some clarification of what Deaf culture is was needed

    Generally academics in Deaf studies assert there are two world views of d-e-a-f folks

    a pathological / medical view (deaf)

    a cultural / linguistic view (Deaf)

    since it is VERY confusing for many that these 2 VERY VERY VERY different views would have the same word associated with them d-e-a-f, i was looking at what might better represent the what the culture is by looking at what the heart of it is – to be simply deaf is not enough – the HEART of the culture seems to rest with whether one has Sign Language or not

    also a lot of the proposed alternative names from the past and present for Deaf culture / people are rooted in using ASL in some form

    in this blog discussion re: What the Heck is Deaf Culture

    you found the source someone was discussing that stated:
    “Reading Between the Signs: Intercultural Communication for Sign” by Anna Mindess on page 76 in Chapter 5 titled “American Deaf Culture”:

    “The following elements are often identified as the core of Deaf culture: fluency in ASL, residential school experience, and Deaf parents.”

    these core elements are not to be confused with the ALL of what is Deaf ASL Culture

    http://blog.deafread.com/pote/ kinda examines how i see the distinctions between the dominant society, the Deaf Community and Deaf Culture – again my understanding is all based on my readings and conference i have attended while applied on a personal level to my own journey

    so dont really see any of my statements calling for a RE-defining but i do see myself:
    1. calling for an examination of a proper title of this culture (for me presently im not thrilled with calling it ASL Culture because very American-centric) but a linguistic title or a title as u have been exploring re: hands or eyes i think would still fit what Deaf Culture is all about and move us away from a term with medical connotations

    one scholar’s dissertation proposed the concept of deafnicity – eckert (2005) and lane has been asserting ethnicity model a lot lately to break away from the disability view

    these may be RE-defining frameworks – but i would need to read more about them

    2. while i dont see my comments as redefining – i do see them as RE-visiting the original definition as has been put forth in the works of Ladd, Lane, Padden and Humphries, Markowicz and Woodward and many many more

    Glickman (Deaf identity Development Scale) and Maxwell McCaw (Deaf Acculturation Scale) both have surveys and scales to examine identity stages and/or acculturation processes

    re: sound ethnographic studies – yes yes yes we definitely need much much more of this! –

    Ladd discusses at length research methodologies and implications and examines “culture” in general from a variety of disciplines, viewpoints, and analysis in Understanding Deaf Culture: In Search of Deafhood



  38. Joseph Pietro Riolo
    Jan 06, 2008 @ 18:12:51

    Thanks, Ms. Patti Durr, for clarification. Revisiting is the right word to describe what you are doing.

    I want to mention few more sources that may be of interest to the participants. Although the sources are relatively old (about 14 years ago), some of the questions and thoughts in the discussion seem to remain relevant to the current time.

    The journal Sign Language Studies had a short discussion on the definition of Deaf culture during 1994 issues. I will list the citations here:

    Issue No. 83 – Summer 1994

    “An SLS Print Symposium” (or “A Print Symposium: Introduction”) by William C. Stokoe (p. 97-101)

    “How Is Deaf Culture?: Toward a revised notion of a fundamental concept” (or “How Is Deaf Culture?: Another perspective on a fundamental concept”) by Graham H. Turner (p. 103-126)

    Comment on Turner by Yerker Andersson (p. 127-131)

    Comment on Turner by Trevor Johnston (p. 133-138)

    Comment on Turner by Leila F. Monaghan (p. 139-144)

    Comment on Turner by Brian Street (p. 145-148)

    Response to Comments by Andersson, Johnston, Monaghan, Street by Graham H. Turner (p. 149-154)

    Issue No. 85 – Fall 1994

    Comment on Turner by Ben Bahan (p. 241-249)

    Comment on Turner by George Montgomery (p. 251-264)

    Comment on Turner by William C. Stokoe (p. 265-270)

    Issue No. 85 – Winter 1994

    Comment on Turner by Paddy Ladd (p. 329-336)

    Response to Comments by Bahan, Ladd, Montgomery, and Further Thoughts by Graham H. Turner (p. 337-366)

    Joseph Pietro Riolo

  39. pdurr
    Jan 06, 2008 @ 18:34:08


    cool – will check them out



  40. Bobby Lopez
    Jan 06, 2008 @ 23:17:25

    Hey Pdurr,
    Thank you for comment,
    Thumbs up!!
    Bobby Lopez

  41. jodi
    Jan 13, 2008 @ 12:44:46

    Why not DEAF all caps – bold, strong, proud and all-inclusive? Very interesting post…thanks, Jodi

  42. pdurr
    Jan 13, 2008 @ 12:51:11

    would non-culturally deaf people object to the broad use of DEAF (all caps) to mean physical and cultural?

    its a good idea – im open to it

    just wonder if run into the same problem of ownership of the word and what it means?



  43. Jean
    Jan 13, 2008 @ 23:53:43

    Salut Patti,

    I would not want the screaming capitalisation like DEAF, AMERICAN, FRENCH, SPANISH, RUSSIAN, ITALIAN. Or, AFRICAN, for that matter. À Dieu ne plaise. 😀

    On a serious note:

    For deaf/Deaf: we follow the policy set by the World Federation of the Deaf when language is utilised in British-English as well as in American-English. Wben written in Br-English and Am-English, the first letter is capitalised: Deaf. Capitalisation also is used in all English-speaking countries, say, Auatralia, New Zealand.


    In European countries, one does capitalise their languages and ethncities. For example, they write as follows:

    Je suis française.
    Je suis sourde, sourde-muette.
    Je parle français.
    Mon pere et ma mere parlent anglais.

    Translation in B-English and Am.-English:

    I am French.
    I am Deaf /Deaf-Mute
    I speak French.
    My father and mother speak

    The same is true in Spain and Italy.

    The Spaniard writes a lower case españolo for language and sordo /sordomudo for Deaf, inglés for English.

    The Italian also writes a lower case italiano for language, sordo / sordomuto for Deaf, inglese for English.


  44. SKB
    Jan 31, 2008 @ 12:29:03

    This is a very good issue to bring to light. I agree with Patti’s Sign of I am ASL. ASL Culture i love. etc. it is very good, and excellent for to bring ot consideration at the NAD conference.

  45. NMB
    Feb 01, 2008 @ 10:40:33

    D-E-A-F is a right term for deaf people instead labeled them “disability” people. Of course, they don’t like that name for them because they can’t hear. However, they are proud of themselves to be deaf or Deaf and they want to encourage other deaf people to expand more deaf people.

    In my opinion, it’s great to encourage other deaf people to expand the deaf world. Some people think that their deaf culture should be Deaf instead deaf. Also, some people prefer called themselves, Deaf instead deaf because they believe in deaf power, thmeselves as true deaf person, or other reasons. So, I think deaf is better term for myself but other deaf people for Deaf is fine with me. Because I am raised in hearing family and friends, I used to it. Also, I don’t want to lose them and my life is more likely split in half for hearing world and deaf world.

    Deaf term means people who can’t hear that well or fully deaf. Also, some people’s ear drums are damaged, not function well, or just naturally deaf for no reasons that caused those people to be deaf.

  46. Ryan Harter
    Feb 01, 2008 @ 11:38:29

    First of all, I notice that most same words like “Love”, “speak”, “am.” But last word related to each sentences. That true! Because most of people have common said that.

    For explain, “I love ASL… I speak ASL… I am ASL…”

    I support to Patti’s idea about sign of “I am ASL and Culture I love.” Because it bring to us become light.

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