April 17, 2004


Carol Neidle has written to describe an attempt to persuade Boston University to allow American Sign Language to count for its Foreign Language Requirement. An on-line petition, with considerable background information, is here. The page says that "Although the petition was originally intended only for BU affiliates, in fact, people from all over have been signing it. If you do have a BU affiliation (including alumni status), please indicate that, but anyone is welcome to sign."

One of the documents the site provides is the Linguistic Society of America's 2001 resolution:

The Linguistic Society of America affirms that sign languages used by deaf communities are full-fledged languages with all the structural characteristics and range of expression of spoken languages. They have rule-governed systems of articulation, word formation, sentence structure, and meaning, which have been the subject of modern scholarly study since the pioneering work of William Stokoe (1919-2000) over forty years ago. These languages are not merely a set of informal gestures, nor are they a signed version of any particular spoken language. American Sign Language, the language of deaf communities in the United States and most of Canada, goes back almost two hundred years and is historically and structurally unrelated to spoken English. It is also the vehicle of a distinguished deaf culture and has a tradition of visual literature.

The LSA affirms for signed languages such as ASL all the rights and privileges attendant to any spoken languages, including the right to satisfy a student's academic foreign language requirement, just as Spanish, Chinese, Navajo, or any other spoken language can.

Posted by Mark Liberman at April 17, 2004 09:14 PM