ASL Arises!

heye all

it might just be cuz ive been in the woods the past 2 days and the snow was melting like crazy and i kept picturing Aslan bounding over the hills bringing spring and conquering the White Witch but i have been thinking of ASL being on the Rise.  Today was all misty in the forest with water droplets hanging off the branches – really pretty but it got me thinking on this first day of the new year – where we been and where we are going

(and yes i do know that winter aint over in Rochester – not by a long shot – snow and cold and blustery breezes will be back with a vengeance to make up for lost time and me will marvel at the moods of mother nature and wonder about “climate change”)

but the melting and Aslan got me thinking about ASL and how it is Arising BIG time and i thought about:

– George Veditz’s Preservation of Sign Language presentation from the NAD Motion Picture Project has been selected for the Library of Congress 2010 National Film Registry – out of 2,112 nominated films – George made it into the top 25 cut – ya hoo and amen!  this is a CHAMP speech so i hope u all will watch it in its entirety – thank u NAD and Gallaudet Video Library for putting it up on line (note u can read his typed up version of his speech – which is not verbatim but cool to see the differences in selected word choices like NOBLEST in the film versus GREATEST on the page – scroll down for page 1 page 2 page 3)

From the Library of Congress press release:

On behalf of the NAD, Veditz made this film specifically to record sign language for posterity at a time when oralists (those who promoted lip reading and speech in lieu of sign language) were gaining momentum in the education of the hearing-impaired. The film conveys one of the ways that deaf Americans debated the issues of their language and public understanding during the era of World War I.

– ASL is on its way to be the 3rd most popular language studied in the US

– Signing is used by babies across the land – (yep me Hearing baby nephew signed “milk” and “yes” – best holiday present i got this year)

– an explosion of ASL literature and video chats now available with the medium at our fingertips to publish and discourse in ASL at a distance (videophones, vlogs, chatrooms, ichat, google chat, skype, facetime….)

– now a days when out and about and u r signing with a pal – folks don’t gawk or stare  – there is no shame or signing under the tables – instead u r likely to encounter folks who actually can read what u r chatting about (“dang, thought this was private” smile)

– Natural sign languages are cool now, its hip, its groovy – we have Signmark and many others

– Deaf cinema experimenting and employing the already built in / automatic / organic cinematic tendencies of ASL storytelling is now being meshed with actual cinematography for an exploration of what the Deaf lens has to offer to the field of movie making (see Vital Signs for the best example to date)

– Deaf folks are being judged less by the dB of their ears and more by the content of their character and this is largely due to it becoming more and more cool and OK to be Deaf and to use a Natural Sign Language

– ICED 2010 Vancouver New Era Resolutions – made some awesome proclamations and commitments righting past wrongs where natural sign languages were banished from programs

Sign Language was used in outerspace by an astronaut

– A Deaf ASL-English scholar, Dr. Carol Padden, was awarded a MacArthur Foundation Genius award for her research on the structure and evolution of natural sign languages.

– More and more literary and artistic works of the Deaf experience that emphasize the importance of ASL are being created, valued, and shared.

There are more tangible and visible manifestations of progress and acceptance – of ASL Arising.  Normally, when underrepresented groups hit the mainstream i.e. “break through” then sincere social change and progress are not far behind.

Of course amidst ASL arising we also see a bit of a backlash and the onslaught of the oral / aural only push

The good news is that the more and more that ASL becomes accepted, embraced, celebrated, employed, respected, valued, enjoyed in the wider public the harder and harder it will be for folks to diss it by saying it is bad English or not a language or to perpetuate myths and falsehoods about it.

More and more folks will start to question the logic and the humaneness of denying Deaf babies and children the right to a fully natural and accessible language alongside English.

No child should have to work for their words and once they see how beautiful ASL is a arising – there will be no denying that we must “cherish and defend the sign language as the noblest gift God gave to the Deaf.” (Veditz, 1913)

Not just Aslan is on the rise.  American Sign Language and other natural sign languages are too.

So ASL and company – stand up and take a bow!  Big hand ways and can’t wait to see how you shine in 2011.

Winter, Summer, Spring or Fall all ya gotta do is call and a Natural Sign Language will be there… yes it will…. You’ve got a friend ….

so after 100 Years since the NAD Motion Picture Project began (1910) we can say – George ya done good – ASL is still alive and well and flourishing and indeed we will heed ur call – of “cherish and defend”

added 1/3/2010 after sending someone this quote today:

As Veditz stated in his 1910 President’s Message “We possess and jealously guard a language different and apart from any other in common use – a language which nevertheless is precisely what all-wise Mother Nature designed for the people of the eye, a language with no fixed form or literature in the past, but which we are now striving to fix and give a distinct literature of its own by means of the moving picture film.”

Happy New Year ASL et al.




14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Dianrez
    Jan 02, 2011 @ 06:50:11

    Thanks, Patti, for an excellent answer to those who predict the extinction of ASL in the future. Even if all Deaf children could be completely “cured” at birth and theoretically make ASL unneccessary, the heritage and the popularity of ASL knowledge will carry it forward indefinitely.

    There are many different applications for ASL outside of the Deaf community. There are indications from medical research that it has value in working with aphasic and stroke patients. Autistic children are also benefiting from ASL.

    Linguistic research is turning up information that the physicality of ASL helps us understand the origins of language in general and cerebral functions of language.

    Sociological research has long recognized that the Deaf community has a valid culture worthy of study and anthropological interest is growing in learning what lessons can be applied to study of other cultures. Students of ethnicity are also delving into it for inspiration.

    I’m sure that naysayers will come around to this recognition, too–I can’t imagine refusing to accept this feature of their own selves for the resource that it offers.

  2. handeyes
    Jan 02, 2011 @ 12:56:20

    Heye Dianrez –

    ah u come speaking the gospel of truth by mentioning various studies and findings of the benefits of ASL – yep “its a good thing” – not sure if u have gotten a chance to read Lane, Pillard and Hedberg’s new book “The People of the Eye: Deaf Ethnicity and Ancestry” but i think u will love it. Kinda shows Veditz’s point about how as long as we have Deaf people on this earth we will always have our beautiful sign langage.

    have no idea why folks would want to usher in its demise or to continually deny it to the very folks who benefit the most from it – and here im speaking of the oral / aural only proponents and not the folks who just like to nuk nuk nuk

    cuz the nukkers aint got any real power and alot of their rah rah rah against Deaf culture and ASL is really born out of a desire to get hits and clicks and “look at me im sandra see…” ness

    and that dont really do much except to galvanize folks to get busy or create little drama fests and cesspools and ghost towns

    not a very effective strategy and with such ill intent as to foster in a linguistic and cultural genocide – oh goodness but no matter cuz eyes on the prize and forward march and jumping at da sun and ASL has even made it to outerspace so not much chance of stopping its usage

    the world is indeed round folks – we got video and photos and men jumping on it to prove it

    dont gotta live on the dark side if ya dont wanna

    big thanks for ur comment and happy happy to u



  3. ASLElla
    Jan 02, 2011 @ 17:04:07


    Well, as I mentioned before, I’ll mention again here that it’s “hand in hand” — you can’t truly love ASL until you love Deaf people (ie Deafhood – the audism free celebration of being Deaf. Likewise, you can’t love Deaf people unless you love ASL.

    And to honor ASL is to honor Deaf people. Teaching ASL professionally for 30 years and being involved in development of a serious 2nd language curriculum development, Signing Naturally, I’ve come to realize that focusing just on benefits of ASL for everybody which is definitely true is NOT enough to ensure it’s vitality. Deaf people the primary reason ASL existed must be respected equally. Otherwise it’s gonna be another form of colonialism. First the colonizing of our bodies (ears, mouh and minds) and now the colonizing of our language.

    Nevertheless, it’s grand and good that this article is done pointing out wha amazing progress ASL and other natural signed languages have gone thru in the past 50 years!!! Yeahhhhhh!!!! There’s HOPE!! And we need to keep this in the right perspective to push respect for the language’s creators and lifelines.

  4. Dianrez
    Jan 02, 2011 @ 17:19:33

    Hey, Patti, I feel a dialogue coming on. Here goes: (caution: these remarks may be inflammatory.)

    “…alot of their rah rah rah against Deaf culture and ASL is really born out of a desire to get hits and clicks and “look at me…”

    That’s interesting, that the naysayers are doing it for attention. I think it goes deeper, more of a psychological problem. They are torn between their Deaf selves and the powerful Hearing majority and unconsciously want to ally themselves with the powers that be.

    As Deaf people they feel inferior, powerless, and insignificant. But as rejecters of Deaf Culture and the concept of not being disabled, they take on the identity of being “disabled Hearing people” which is more acceptable in their eyes and the eyes of the Hearing society. As disabled Hearing people they are members of the majority and have more implicit power in being so.

    Why deny their Deaf culture instead of finding pride in it? Several reasons: when younger, they may have been bullied or rejected by their Deaf fellows, easily for personality reasons. This may be their way to strike back at those bullies and Deaf society in general.

    Or it may be because as you have said, they desire attention more than being accepted by their fellow Deaf people. Truth is often secondary to the attention goal. They may see themselves sincerely as the “voice of the future” and dig up justification for that, quoting questionable professionals and researchers to support it.

    Some may have the gifts of partial hearing and speech abilities and thus are more easily integrated with the Hearing community than their Deaf fellows who also work in the Hearing community. They may want to retain their “edge” and feel threatened by those with less hearing and equal or superior skills.

    Some may have been reared orally and have worked very hard for their Hearing skills, and look upon Deaf people as truly less fortunate people. To justify the enormous work they have invested in their development, their concept is that the Deaf community isn’t worth it, offers nothing of value to them. Their view is: they are Hearing, the future belongs to Hearing people and the Deaf are fortunately soon to be obliterated.

    Or they may simply prefer the known to the unknown if they have never been exposed to ASL or were raised by Hearing people with no knowledge of the Deaf community. Deaf culture has no meaning to them or may be regarded abstractly as a poor substitute for the Hearing community.

    Biculturalism, on the other hand, is being a member of both the Deaf and Hearing communities and accepting both as equally important and enjoyable with no qualifications. A matter-of-fact, neutral outlook on both is a desirable goal.

    However, as long as there are misconceptions held in either community, it is also desirable to talk up the advantages of both so that naysayers do not even unintentionally skew public understanding or deny Deaf babies the right to be raised biculturally.

  5. Don G.
    Jan 02, 2011 @ 17:21:34

    The progress that ASL has made in gaining recognition and “legitimacy” is truly wonderful. However, although people are using ASL (or maybe more acurately, “signs”) with Hearing patients like aphasics, stroke victims, babies, etc., if there are no Deaf people in the future (“cured”), then ASL WILL cease to exist. These aphasics, stroke victims, Hearing babies will not sign ASL, but English using ASL signs, and that is not ASL at all.

    Nevertheless, a nice post affirming all the wonderful gains that ASL has made in the public eye. Hopefully those gains DO translate toward cultural and linguistic rights for DEAF people as well.

  6. handeyes
    Jan 02, 2011 @ 19:29:47


    yep truly ASL and Deaf folks go “hand-in-hand” no doubt no question no nevermind and buts about it

    ASL as a TRUE language will unlikely exist without Deaf folks. Deaf folks as a disability can and do exist without ASL. There are Native American folks who have never uttered their “mother tongue” – there are Jewish folks who know-not Hebrew – my mom is full Italian 1st generation Italian-American and can only speak a smattering of the unique italian dialect of her parents.

    Languages do die off even if the folks who used to speak it dont. Some languages live on (Latin) even if the folks who used to speak it all die off. Hopefully with ASL it will do neither – the folks and the language will continue on forever more hand-in-hand. This is why Veditz’s quotes in his historic preservation of sign language ASL speech and his written English version and his President Address at the 3rd World’s Congress of the Deaf and 9th NAD conference of 1910 are so precious to me.

    Quotes of Veditz:
    “Wherever the deaf have received an education the method by which it is imparted is the burning question of the day with them, for the deaf are what their schooling make them more than any other class of humans. They are facing not a theory but a condition, for they are first, last, and all the time the people of the eye.” – 1910

    With only about 5 % of Deaf folks coming from Deaf parents it is TOTALLY amazing that ASL has lived and thrilled this long especially in-spite of the Campaign Against American Sign Language (See Douglas Baynton’s Forbidden Signs: the Campaign Against American Sign Language book)

    With the influx of mainstreaming came the invention of a multitude of systems that would be “easier” for parents, interpreters, paraprofessionals etc to utilize with Deaf children but did not improve in the acquiring of any full natural and accessible language – hence the COED congressional report in the 1980s saying mainstreaming and TC is failing the kids

    so we definitely gotta be watchful and proactive and creative and firm with love and jumping at da sun and landing on the moon

    All that curriculum that is out there for Hearing folks deserves to be part of Deaf children’s experiences. If Hearing kids have to study 12 years of English when they can HEAR it why shouldnt Deaf children be entitled to studying a bit of a language they dont have to undergo aggressive means to ascertain while still acquiring English too

    too too too

    we talking bilingual / multilingualism folks – not excluding or extreming nothing here

    recently when i showed some students a clip of Hotchkiss from the old NAD films (see link at bottom) explaining how Laurent Clerc taught the children the difference in meaning between “we eat to live” and “we live to eat” – how the placement of the words “eat” and “live” make all the difference – using fingerspelling and signing – my student blurted out – that is bi-bi? I thought that was a new thing / a recent thing.

    oh how my eyes shined. Our students are so smart. I was like – nope not new at all. it was there all along – it was the origins of Deaf education in the US of A

    What happened? ask another

    Milan, 1880! replied the other

    i said wow – knowledge is power

    just wish we could school ourselves sooner and better

    i got so much catching up to do i can barely sleep at night ; )

    so even though im sure some folks aint thrilled with the idea of a Deaf music summer camp for Deaf kids – i is

    i is cuz its Rosa Lee folks and she is a GEM

    and cuz im really starting to like ASL songs – original ones most especially one. ones that dont require no spoken words and flashy music in the background but if u wanna put it there – dont bother me no how – i like the stuff that makes me FEEL the music and then learn wow there aint even one hint of a sound in the background – now that is music to the eyes

    like ur poem ella

    like ur poem

    so yep – gotta get the language into the hands of the folks it belongs to while simultaneously celebrating the good and just places its going and totally dont let it be exploited or colonized – no thank ya there


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  7. handeyes
    Jan 02, 2011 @ 19:50:39

    hi dianrez –

    oh goodness – u trying to get me into trouble here? smile

    i reserve the white psychoanalysis coat largely for meself -especially since im such an interesting subject so i tend not to try to go into the interworkings of other folks minds

    too dark and dusty at times and simply cuz “physician heal thyself shall be the first order of me day”

    i do seek to understand more than to be understood – seek to love more than be loved – seek to forgive more than be forgiven but seek to psychoanalyze more than psychoanalyze nah thanks

    i aint qualifed nor fully edified

    i do think examining our privileges is REALLY important when we seek out equality

    privileges in terms of income, education, access, language, etc etc etc

    i very much appreciate all u wrote dianrez and i aint being neutral here – i appreciate it just cuz its u sharing ur point of view and i always appreciate when folks take a stand cuz if i know where u truly are standing i can figure out the ground in which we both can walk

    i am not a fan of neutrality because it is often used as an invisibility shield and is truly unachievable most especially by the folks who dress themselves up and cloak themselves in it

    thank u again for ur note and also for calling me on the fact that the “rah rah rah….nuk nuk nuk” assessment might be way too superficial



  8. handeyes
    Jan 02, 2011 @ 20:07:00

    Aw Dr. Donald

    u r getting a wee bit hopeful there – that is GRAND to behold

    yep u r right and spot on as is Ella in the being cautiously optimistic and also knowing the difference btw using a language and just some hand flapping a here and there

    in no way shape or form am i trying to convey that ASL or rudimentary signs used by the masses is gonna carry the language and the culture i am just thinking and remarking about wow WEEE

    they keep saying “independence through speaking and listening” which also means a multitude of assistive devices and systems (from bilateral CIs, AVT, CART, etc etc) and meanwhile the Deaf ASL-English folks r looking mighty cool – showing up in commercials, TV shows, movies, getting Genius awards!, getting high level positions in the US Dept of Ed, in the FCC etc (well maybe i didnt make that point so much clearly in the blog post cuz i was focusing on the visibility of ASL and we do still have a long way to go but we r at the ASL is cool and hope end of the pendulum while they r at the “all the king’s horse and all the king’s men end of the pendulum”

    so we keep on keepin’ on with the multi-prong approach eh?

    1. having the spiritual audacity to assert our somebodyness (thank u martin) ie its ok to be Deaf (ie Deafhood)

    2. 2 or > languages are better than 1 inaccessible one

    3. linguicism, Oralism (oral / aural ONLY ), and audism aint cool fools

    really don – ya done made me very happy there cuz colonel west said african-americans are prisoners of hope and tony kushner said Hope is a moral obligation

    so id much rather be hoping along side u than only seeing the impossible and the implorable

    much peace


  9. ASLElla
    Jan 03, 2011 @ 20:38:43

    hi again.

    thinking about what you said about Italian-Americans and Deaf as disability folks without ASL. Not sure if writing English will do justice for what I’m trying to say but I ll try.

    You know there’s a lesson in Signing Naturally where students learn how to explain their ancestry triggered by last name and parent’s “roots” in general terms, before going into narrating one’s life story.

    After doing that with many many many students over the course of my long ASL teaching life, as well as teaching Deaf culture courses where I always start by having students examine their own identities and backgrounds (cultures), I’ve encountered some students who are not familiar with their familial ancestry and much rather call themselves Americans. When I encourage further, they may recall vaguely, etc.

    My point is…when you said your mother is Italian-American, I wonder where the “Italian” part comes from? What culture aspects are left over if language is not spoken? DNA tests can probably identify the “Italian” genes/ancestry. Gotta check up on that one. Why does she still call herself “Italian”?

    So my question regarding Deaf as disability without ASL… past incidences have seen what that mean… if we can predict based on what has happened in the past, we will NOT see “Deaf” being used by those people but terms like “hearing impaired” or “with hearing loss”.

    So, for now, it looks like that using the word “Deaf” will mean “hand in hand” with ASL. And that “Deaf” is a cultural construct, that comes with embracing and using Sign Language.

  10. handeyes
    Jan 03, 2011 @ 21:16:41

    i’m agreeing with ya ella re: the hand in hand stuff

    re: me mum – she is a ITALIAN no doubt about it – smile and proud of it

    how and why does she self-identify as Italian cuz she is proud of her heritage

    she makes a mean lasagna, meatballs to die for, home made bread which we would dip in her homemade spagetti sauce and devoir the whole loaf and pot before she called “ala mena gati” (i have no idea of how to type this but i believe it meant come and eat and she always said and still says it when its time to sit down to eat together – like ring the bell-triangle out in the west (come and git it)

    what else hmmmm we teased her once that she wouldnt be able to finish a story without gesturing and sure enuf when we tested our theory by holding down her hands to the side all she could do is sputter and spout – couldnt complete her thoughts and me mum is a master storyteller – not in the linear way but in the indigenous folkys kinda way (we also used to watch each other to see if she could ever return to her central point and she always did only to bounce off from it again on another tangent) truly a beauty to behold and seems i have a wee bit of that too

    oh also during the holidays she was running around saying “Its a sign, its a sign” and i was like OMG that is where i get if from – this constant superstition, looking for omens and signs in my daily life and then saying NAH girl nah – smile

    for st paddy’s day – she once got me a “Kiss me i’m italian” t-shirt

    she used to refer to her people as dagos and wops before it became un PC

    she also called folks from her family’s town of origins pizons (i cant find the spelling in google so i suspect it was something from the town’s special dialect – they didnt really speak regulara Italian there)

    my father is of irish, french, german decent but his family has been in the US for many generations so less significant or remembered

    growing up my mom’s parents would speak their dialect with each other – my grandfather having grown up in Italy and my gram (coming here as a baby – i have to check cuz she may have even been born her which would make my mom 2nd generation see i dont even know / remember my own origins – by my gram grew up speaking the language cuz her parents were off the boat and she later married my grandfather who was about 15 years older than here and who was off the boat so hence they used the language but WOULD NOT USE IT WITH THE CHILDREN – assimilation being all the rage back then and English is better and Italian is private for the bedroom and brawl rooms mentality etc

    my Gram lived with us for a few years when i was a teenager and even through she had grown up in the US she had alot of Italian mannerisms / sensibilities to the point that if i encounter an older short (look like they are shrinking with age person) who is round and soft and has a bit of an accent and gestures and giggles i want to snuggle up next to them – this always happens with folks from South Eastern Europe for me – they have THAT THAT that is a familiar for me but can i name it???

    not really

    so being language colonized can not STRIP a people or a person completely of their culture, heritage, values, beliefs, possessions BUT it can erode the culture pretty dang quick me think

    another example would be Jewish – my husbands families have lived in the US for ions so they dont have any strong identification with their European origins but they certainly do with their Jewish identity. many of my S father and mother’s generation did not learn Hebrew – kinda like my mom did not grow up with Italian – the generation after the assimilation often is langugage of origin-LESS and then the generation after that strikes up an interest in learning the language of their forefathers and mothers – so then there was the whole push for Hebrew school in the US etc

    so our kids know Hebrew probably better than S does

    such is the cycle and acculturation / enculturation and DEculturation

    but ur main points r still valid and excellent and true AND AND AND since Deaf folks often dont come into cultural and linguistic contact with other Deaf folks naturally – the danger is greater

    it is fascinating to see how much we dont even know about our own selves in terms of our own heritage

    where as many other cultures – wow they can tell u who is who from where going way way way back

    now Lane et al new book People of the Eye talks a great deal about kinship and those Deaf cultural markers of – where did you go to school etc and the more deeper and important stuff of ethnicity

    i think u is gonna LOVE that book Ella cuz it has FACTS behind exactly what u r asserting and inquiring about

    granted i have only read a wee bit of it thus far but from what i have skimmed and read – i think its what u r asking about and offers a wee bit of hope but …. i could be biased smile as im always on the look out for hope

    that i would wager is inherited from mom and my dad both – salt of the earth folks

    aw now u got me all nostalgic and i wanna run back home ; )



  11. handeyes
    Jan 03, 2011 @ 21:20:25

    oh also if Ranting or being impassioned is an Italian characteristic – my mom has that too

    and yep seems that may have gotten passed on also ; )

    if it is not an italian thingy and i just bought into an overrated stereotype – forgive me my bros and sis

    once i told a group of students on the first day of class – watch out – i have Red hair and im Italian so u know what that means to which JD (a Redheaded guy in my class) nonchalantly signed – “that is a myth” – i said “about the redheads” JD: “Yep” i said “true – my bad. but the Italians?” JD: “hmmm????”




  12. handeyes
    Jan 03, 2011 @ 22:40:17

    another quote from veditz that i just sent to someone for an article about the library of congress selecting veditz so i thought id copy and paste here

    boy – what i guy – so smart!

    Veditz 1910 President’s Message “We possess and jealously guard a language different and apart from any other in common use – a language which nevertheless is precisely what all-wise Mother Nature designed for the people of the eye, a language with no fixed form or literature in the past, but which we are now striving to fix and give a distinct literature of its own by means of the moving picture film.”

  13. handeyes
    Jan 06, 2011 @ 13:03:35

    ‎”All of the different functions of language – expressing individual and cultural identity, purveying cultural norms and values, linking the present & the past-sustain an ethnic group’s love of its native language as the central symbol of its identity and fuel the minority’s resistance to replacement of its language by more powerful others.”

    Lane, Pillard, Hedberg – “The People of the Eye: Deaf Ethnicity and Ancestry” Oxford Press

  14. Trackback: Is Candy’s question valid? « PEOPLE OF THE EYE -…first, last, and all the time” – g. veditz 1910

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