Friday, March 18, 2011

Kinda Fun

I'm developing a training program for a class. The program is about making trainings and training materials accessible. One of the inspirations for developing this training is my experience having to interpret non-captioned videos during training classes. The fact is that interpreting a video is not equal access. In order to demonstrate to hearing people the effect of lag time when interpreting a video I edited the audio on this training video I found on YouTube.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Interpreters as Possible Agents of Standardization of ASL

So I feel like I promised more than just YouTube videos so here's something more academic. Like most of what I had posted on the old site this was originally written as a class assignment. The assignment was to come up with a research proposal. In this case I think the lit review is the most interesting part of the project. Hopefully it interests you as well.

I recently found out I'm not alone in terms of interest in this project.  As it turns out there's a group from Gallaudet who are doing actual true-biz research on this very topic.  They will be presenting their paper as part of a panel at Georgetown University Round Table on Language and Linguistics on Friday, March 11, 2011.  In fact they are on the same panel I'm on so I was pretty surprised to see their topic.  I'm excited to see what they came up with.




One truism that the field of linguistics has given the world is that languages change. Any introductory linguistics class, or at least any introductory linguistics class I have ever come across, includes the idea that languages are not static, they are ever evolving as the people and cultures they inhabit grow and evolve. For languages used by diverse speakers over varied geographical space languages develop dialects, variations that are particular to a group of speakers that stand apart from but are generally mutually intelligible to the greater body of speakers. For example, many speakers of English in North America can tell you that people from the southern United States speak differently than people in the Ozark mountains. Still, people form these two regions are likely to be able to converse with each other without tremendous difficulty. While a language may have many dialects spoken by various groups of speakers they often also have a standard variety. This standard is the variety usually taught in schools and to people learning the language. Often this standard exists as an idea more than as a reality as one may be more likely to find speakers using non-standard forms more often than standard forms in their day-to-day communication. One example of this, which I will discuss in more detail later, can be found in the work done by Lucas et al (2001) who found that non-standard forms of some ASL signs were found more often than standard forms in a corpus of recorded ASL conversations.

As time goes on dialects of a language may move closer to, or farther from the standard for a variety of reasons. Among these are degrees of isolation or contact. Chambers (2009) quotes Weinreich in explaining the effects of isolation and contact this way:

“Contact breeds imitation and imitation breeds linguistic convergence. Linguistic divergence results from secession, estrangement, loosening of contact.” Weinreich ([1953] 1963: viii)” (Chambers, 2009: 73).

Fromkin and Rodman (1998) provide an example of this noting that English speakers on the island of Ocracoke are exhibiting a move towards Standard American English due to natives leaving the island and retirees from the mainland moving into the community. Economic mobility also plays a part in dialect leveling. Chambers (2009) summarizes several studies showing that as people move upwards in terms of socio-economic status they tend to hyper-correct in an attempt to sound like the class they are joining. This often results in upwardly mobile speakers using more standard forms than the members of the class they are joining for whom class is static. Economic mobility becomes entwined with geographic mobility, when people have more money they then have more opportunity to travel, greater access to educational opportunities, and greater freedom to live and work in different areas.

Another factor in language change includes the addition, subtraction, and changes of meaning of lexical items. As new concepts or objects are introduced new words are added, or the meanings of existing words is changed to describe these new ideas. The latter process is known as broadening (Fromkin and Rodman, 1998). How quickly new terms are adopted differs on different levels. For example, language change may be rapid for an individual who adopts new terms or a new way of speaking related to contact or mobility, but slow for a group where acceptance and agreement may need to be negotiated.

Anecdotal Assertions

As a PhD student in the Department of Interpretation at Gallaudet University I encountered a common sentiment from both professors and students that American Sign Language (ASL) is becoming standardized due to the influence of readily available video technology. On the surface this seems like a reasonable assumption. The decade between the turn of the century and today has seen an explosion of technology and formats for video communication. As videophone and web-cams become more advanced and less expensive and bandwidth becomes cheaper Deaf people have greater access to remote communication than ever before. The “Facetime” feature on Apple’s iPhone 4 brings the promise of video communication mobility in the near future and with it the full participation of Deaf people in the cell phone culture that has spread throughout the United States. Further, websites like YouTube, facebook, and free web-hosting sites have allowed ASL users to post video-logs (vlogs) in what is for many of them, their native language. This phenomenon should be given a full measure of significance as it allows Deaf people to break free of English, which for many of them is a second language and thus an imperfect medium for self expression. Vlogs allow Deaf people to both express and receive content in their native language on a footing roughly equal to what native English users have had for the last decade. It is not unreasonable to look at this cultural and communicative technological renaissance and think that there must then be a standardizing effect on ASL. After all, we can now see people from any part of the country using ASL and incorporate their variants into our own language use.

Despite these facts I have not found any empirical evidence that this type of standardization is taking place. Beyond that, I have not found much evidence to support the idea that this kind of standardization is likely to take place outside of the creation and standardization of new or novel lexical items. By this I mean the agreement of the Deaf community on lexical items that parallel the same word creation patterns seen in English primarily with lexical items that refer to new phenomena as a direct result of new technology. For example words like, “blog,” or the lexicalization of the acronym LOL (Laughing Out Loud). In the 2005 PBS documentary “Do You Speak American?” linguist William Labov indicates that the northern cities vowel shift is moving the dialect of the Great Lakes region farther from Standard American English despite the fact that as a nation most of us have access to the same forms of media. The implication is that even though we share a knowledge of and exposure to Broadcast English or standard American English though television, film, and radio we have not standardized our pronunciation or vocabulary in our everyday speech. So why would we think ASL would standardize as a result of increased access to video communication?

What is “Non-Standard” ASL?

Lucas et al (2001) provides a thorough run down of variation in ASL. The authors note that there is a concept of Standard ASL being the citation form signs found in ASL textbooks. The authors go on to provide myriad examples of how ASL users produce language that is different than the standard. For example, in their discussion of the “location variable” the authors note that signs produced at or on the forehead in their citation forms are often produced lower on the head, face, or in space. Turning again to anecdotal reports that seem to have become commonly accepted among people who work in fields related to deafness is the notion that Deaf children rarely receive the kind of instruction in ASL that their hearing counterparts receive in regard to English. That is, while both Deaf and hearing children grow up learning the conventions of standard English in structured classroom activities Deaf children and even deaf adults do not receive similar instruction about standard ASL.


As I mentioned above one of the roots of standardization often cited in the halls of Gallaudet University is the increased access to videophones. This increased availability allows Deaf people to communicate with other ASL users across North America. The logic is that this exposure leads to standardization. However, hearing people have had the telephone for roughly 100 years and the impact of the device on standardization of spoken language has been minimal. I suggest that this is due to the fact that we do not generally call random people from around the country. Most of our calls are to people we already know, or to people in our localities. One exception is calls to customer service centers that use call centers around the country. If a customer calls a service center in a different location it is possible that they will encounter a representative who speaks a different dialect. How much impact this interaction may have, even over a lifetime of such interactions, is unknown but can be presumed to be minimal. Added to this is the fact that customer service telephone representatives are encouraged to speak as close to the standard dialect as possible thus minimizing the possible effect of the influence of their dialect. There is a corollary for this in the Deaf community in the form of Video Relay Interpreters (VI). Much like a hearing person calling a customer service call center a Deaf person accessing an interpreter through the Video Relay System (VRS) can get an interpreter from any part of the country. I will discuss this more in depth below.


Before discussing contact between Deaf people and Video Interpreters I would like to discuss the general demographics of interpreters past and present. One of the early demographic surveys of interpreters was done by Dennis Cokely (Cokely, 1981). The data Cokely reports indicates that 65% of the respondents did not have Deaf parents and did not grow up using ASL as their first language. Later studies have indicated the number as being closer to 50% but indicated that the number of non-CODA interpreters was expected to rise due to rapid professionalization of the field leading to a proliferation of interpreter training programs (Alcorn & Humphries, 1995). Since more interpreters are joining the field as non-native signers they have to learn ASL somewhere else. Historically non-native signers learned ASL primarily through exposure to and socialization with the Deaf community (Alcorn & Humphries, 1995; Brunson, ????; Cokely, 2005). With more interpreters coming up through ITPs many if not most of them are learning language primarily in the classroom and refining their language use through limited and often structured contact with the Deaf community. Cokely (2007) notes that a great majority of interpreters he surveyed reported that they spend less than 10% of their free time socializing with Deaf people. With this in mind it stands to reason that one of two things may be evident in the ASL production of these interpreters. They will either produce primarily citation forms (the form of lexical items as presented in text books), or they will produce forms particular to the dialect of their local Deaf community. The most likely situation is a combination of citation forms and local dialect. In addition to being second language learners the demographic studies noted above also state that a majority of interpreters are women. This is relevant to the current topic in that research (Mulrooney, 2000; Trudgill, 1972; Cheshire, 1978) shows that women are more likely to use overt “prestige forms” which often closely parallel citation form production of language. Essentially, women are more likely to produce language that is acknowledged by the greater society as “correct” or “proper.”

Other Factors in Standardization

Before examining the possibility that interpreters are agents of standardization in ASL I would like to note some of the other factors involved in standardization, if indeed ASL is standardizing. Cokely (2005) notes that Deaf people are now upwardly mobile in a way that they were not in the past. The passage of the Americans With Disabilities act along with previous legislation has opened up more educational and employment opportunities for Deaf people over the last twenty years. The result is advancing social, economic, and geographic mobility for Deaf people. This mobility brings Deaf people into contact with other Deaf people from other regions and backgrounds more often than in the past. Examples of this mobility can be seen in the attendance of Deaf people at national conventions like the World Deaf Expo, which drew over 20,000 visitors.

Another standardizing factor is the existence of a prestige dialect of ASL. In yet another example of anecdotal “common wisdom” it has long been held that Gallaudet University has had a standardizing effect on the language. The commonly accepted notion is that as the educational and cultural Mecca of the Deaf World the signs used at Gallaudet University are held in higher esteem and thus have a greater chance of becoming widely used than signs viewed as regional from other places. So, if people at Gallaudet start to use a sign in a certain way or adopt a certain variant that variant will be carried across the country and by dint of being a “Gallaudet sign” will be accepted and adopted by signers in other regions. Whether or not this actually happens is unresolved from a research standpoint but is held as folk wisdom in the Deaf community.

Though the Gallaudet effect has not been fully researched a recent study in regional variation in ASL used in Vermont has turned up another factor in standardization. Palmer and Morris (2010) found that in the three age groups they studied, knowledge of Vermont variants showed a negative correlation to age. The authors expressed a couple theories as to why younger signers knew fewer of the Vermont variants. One theory was that since the local Deaf school had only recently (1970s) switched to a philosophy that embraced ASL the teachers there placed an emphasis on “real ASL” rather than on the regional variants. The second theory, which relates to the first, involves a story related by a Deaf ASL teacher in Vermont. According to this teacher when she was training to become an ASL teacher the instructor of her training emphasized teaching ASL as presented in a specific curriculum rather than teaching the local dialect (Palmer & Morris, 2010).

Another possible factor in the reported standardizing of ASL is the increased mainstreaming of Deaf children in public schools (Cokely, 2005). As Deaf residential school enrollment falls, more Deaf children are being placed in classes with hearing peers and hearing teachers accessing the environment through an interpreter. Depending on the circumstances of the Deaf child the interpreter may be their primary language model. That is, the Deaf child may be learning ASL from the interpreter. If the interpreter is a graduate of an ITP and has learned ASL through one of the popular curriculums it is likely that the interpreter is presenting the child with the standard forms which the child will then incorporate into their own language production.

Factors Working Against Standardization

Despite greater mobility, Cokely’s keynote address at the 2010 PCRID conference noted that deaf people are still unemployed and underemployed at a greater rate than other Americans. In the same address he states that English literacy for Deaf people still lags far behind their hearing peers. So, while Deaf people are experiencing greater mobility, they are still behind their hearing counterparts.

Another barrier to standardization is the concept of covert prestige. Chambers (2009) cites several studies that indicate that some non-standard dialects persist because they carry covert prestige which shows the speaker’s connection to a particular group. Preston (2002) discusses Prestige vs. solidarity forms noting that women often prefer the former and men prefer the latter.

Linguistic Theoretical Basis for Interpreters as Possible Agents of Standardization

Milroy (2002) summarizes and explains the utility of the “social network” concept in sociolinguistics. She notes several characteristics of networks and how they constrain language use and provide opportunities for language innovation and change. She describes how dense networks provide both support and pressure, which creates an environment resistant to language change. If network ties weaken then a situation more open to language change is created. Variation research is primarily interested in first order network ties (people who associate closely). Milroy notes three kinds of ties, “Exchange” (strong ties), “Interactive” (non-supportive, acquaintances), and passive (distant but influential, i.e. extended family). Localized speech styles are constructed through close knit networks, communities where members live, work, and socialize largely with the same people. She also says that network analysis is important/useful where speakers cannot be separated by traditional social categories like class, race, education, etc, it also can help determine differences between speakers rather than “classes.” Also, immigrant communities represent good places for network studies of bilinguals in that network studies can examine not only specific language shifts but also code switching patterns.

Rickford (1985) looked at two speakers from the same community, one white and one black. He references and ultimately supports Labov’s work in Philadelphia, which found that white and black non-standard dialects do not converge except when both move towards the national standard, but not towards each other. Also, Black people tend to converge with white norms when they have high contact with Whites but not vice versa. Ultimately, anatomy, geography and socioeconomic status are not factors in Black/White speech differences, which are attributable in part to social contact and mobility. This applies to the Deaf community in that it is possible that when Deaf people from disparate backgrounds come into contact they will both move their language production towards the standard.

Meyerhoff (2002) examines Eckert’s study of Detroit high school students which shows that some of the most socially outcast members of a comunity were using that freedom to change their language use in a way that ended up driving linguistic change in their community.

Chambers (2003) provides a summary of the use of network studies in sociolinguistics. Network studies allow researchers to study variation with finer granularity than they can by applying general sociolinguistic categories like class, age, and gender. While these “macroscopic” (Chambers, 2003: 75) classifications do apply in network studies examining and defining networks allows researchers to parse out the reasons behind why, “some social groups are not class-differentiated and nevertheless show linguistic differentiation.” (Chambers, 74). Also, networks, and thus network studies, are largely defined by the people being studied. As Chambers points out, while an individual cannot change where they were born, their gender, or their parent’s economic status, they can to some extent choose where and with whom they will hang out. Two of the measures of network studies are a measure of “network density” (Chambers, 79) and a measure of network integration (Chambers, 83). Density describes how many people in the network are known by any individual. In a dense network many of the individuals will know each other. Network integration determines the depth of the connections between members by developing and assigning a set of criteria for measuring integration. Chambers (2003) provides a few examples, and highlights work done by Milroy (1980). In her study Milroy classified subjects according to five criteria. This neighborhood included ties of kinship, workplace, gender, and participation (including what kind of participation and with whom). Subjects that scored high on the integration scale were shown to also use the most non-standard or local vernacular forms.

Network studies are often used to reveal why members of a geographically defined and in some ways homogenous (i.e. all members are from the same social class) community shows evidence of linguistic variation. As mentioned above this is usually a micro-level analysis that works best with when the subjects are “localized and close knit.” (Chambers, 76). At first glance it seems that a network study approach would not meet with much success when applied to a population like the American Deaf community, which is geographically dispersed and varied in terms of social class. However, as Croneberg (1965) shows the American Deaf community is a linguistic and cultural entity that exists both within and separate from mainstream American society. In this way their linguistic and cultural “isolation” might be compared to the alpine villagers or inner-city gang members found in other network studies. The use of American Sign Language and degree of separation from mainstream American media could stand in for geographic proximity and homogenous social class when justifying the use of a network study approach with the American Deaf population. Indeed Croneberg’s (1965) description of the deaf community would likely sound familiar to researchers like Labov and Lippi-Green as described in Chambers (2003).

If one were to use a network approach to examining variation in the American Deaf community then it would be necessary to develop a network integration scale. The scale I present below draws on Milroy’s (1980) scale accounting for factors of kinship, occupational environment, and participation in activities and associations. I also rely on Croneberg’s (1965) description of the deaf community in terms of their general upbringing, associations with peer groups, and values. Each of the seven network categories proposed includes brief points on why the measure is significant.

Proposed Network
(1) Deaf parents (kinship)
a. Early acquisition of ASL and Deaf culture
b. Family reinforcement of Deaf identity

(2) Attended Deaf Residential School
a. Socialization and acquisition of ASL and Deaf culture at the next possible intervention point
b. 2 points for resident, 1 point for day student

(3) Attended Gallaudet University
a. Acculturation at third possible intervention point
b. Early adult opportunity to choose Deaf identity over attempting to enter the mainstream

(4) Member of deaf social/school organization (participation)
a. I.e. Fraternity/sorority, deaf student association, Member of deaf club, Member of NAD, Member of deaf sports team or other organized activity

(5) Work in “high Deaf” employment (occupation)
a. Job site has higher concentration of Deaf employees than found in general population
b. Job is in a deafness centered field

(6) Socialize primarily with Deaf friends (association/participation)
a. Ties to other Deaf people

(7) Uses ASL as primary means of communication
a. Important to distinguish deaf Deaf from others who may also be considered part of the community (i.e. CODAS) and who may show up strong in some parts of the scale and yet may not be core members of the community.

I considered including an eighth measurement of having a Deaf spouse or partner but decided to exclude it on the grounds that the choice of a partner may not be a social statement despite anecdotal evidence from my own experience. I cannot claim with any certainty that choosing an in-group partner is a reflection of a value based choice (I want someone like me) or a product of environment (I am most often around people like me). That is, is the pairing of core members based on a conscious choice, or the product of mostly associating with other core members? I have no suggestion on this point.

In order to provide a preliminary test of my proposed measures I applied the scale to members of a Deaf family.

    1  2   3  4  5  6   7
D +  +  +  +  +  +  +
R +  +  +  +  +  +  +
L  -  +  +  +   -  +  +
T +  -   +  -   +   -  -
B -   -  +  +  +   -   -

In this small sample population R and D are siblings, L is R’s spouse, T is R and L’s child, and B is T’s spouse. R worked in the printing department at the Washington Post, a well-known employer of Deaf people until the department closed with the advent of electronic publishing. D was an administrator at a school for the Deaf. L held various jobs but was primarily a stay-at-home parent. T and B are both hearing and work as ASL-English interpreters. All members of the population are graduates of Gallaudet University.

According to the scale and adopting Milroy’s (1980) terms, R and D would be considered core members of the Deaf community, L would be secondary, and T and B would be periphery. I believe this paints an accurate picture of the roles of these people in the Deaf community. D and R have been core members of the Deaf community since birth and have never strayed. Both married Deaf partners and D has deaf children and grand children. They both have few or no hearing friends and the hearing friends they do have are former work associates who know ASL. While L did attend a residential school it was an oral program and she strayed form the Deaf community as a young adult associating mostly with hearing people, working as the only deaf person in her workplace, and pairing up with a hearing partner. Her subsequent marriage to R was a driving force in her re-assimilation into the Deaf community. T and B represent common periphery members of the community. Though both are hearing they are fluent in ASL, spend all of their occupational time and some of their leisure time with Deaf people, have Deaf family members and, in this case, have educational ties to the Deaf community through their affiliation with Gallaudet University. T and B will never be “language leaders” (Chambers, 112) but may still be linguistically important. Due to their frequent contact with Deaf people around the country by way of their work as interpreters it is possible that they can function as linguistic innovators, at least as far as introducing variables across traditional sociolinguistic borders.

Interactions in VRS

With all of the above information in mind I call into question the idea that video technology, whether in the form of videophones or vlogs is truly behind any perceived standardization of American Sign Language. At the very least I would like to propose that if there is a sort of technological leveling going on it is not because Deaf people are in greater contact with each other through video. After all, just because you can call anyone anywhere, will you? I contend that, as Labov indicates in the quote above, languages evolve away from the standard in spite of technology. Hearing people have had the same telephones, television, radio, and film for 100 years or more and yet we do not attribute dialect leveling in North American English to these technologies. I propose that Deaf people, like hearing people, primarily use their videophones to call their friends and family, people who likely share the same linguistic variants as the person calling them. However, there is one video interaction that may have a leveling effect.

In her 1997 article, “Who Speaks for the Deaf Community? Not Who You Would Think!” Elizabeth Broeckner provides a generally a scathing critique of the role interpreters play in the Deaf community. Broecker notes that interpreters have become the face of the Deaf community in America because Deaf people passively allow these interpreters to represent them. She suggests that hearing people in Deaf Studies programs are often taught more about Deaf history, culture, the ADA, and linguistics of ASL than Deaf people are taught in the course of their own schooling thus making hearing people the authoritative voice of Deaf culture. Broeckner’s assertions provide the first motivation for an exploration of interpreters as possible agents of dialect leveling in ASL. If Cokely and Broeckner are correct and interpreters by and large are second language learners who have an understanding of standard ASL and linguistics then it is reasonable to assume that interpreters produce more standard forms than people who learn ASL organically.

Interpreters are also now nearly unavoidable in the daily lives of Deaf Americans. Broeckner presents four criteria for someone purporting to represent the Deaf community being able to make an impact on Hearing society. They are, high visibility, high credibility, occasion to interact with people in all aspects of American life, and the ability to influence wide-spread public opinion again and again (1997, 7). Though Broeckner was talking about interpreters representing Deaf people to the hearing world the same factors apply to interpreters interactions with Deaf people. Video Relay interpreters are highly visible in that Deaf people as a population make several thousand VRS calls each day. They have high credibility in that VRS interpreters are supposed to be the best interpreters available. They have occasion to interact with Deaf people from all over the country in a variety of communicative contexts. They also have the ability to influence opinion again and again due to the fact that they have dozens of customers over the course of a day. Thus, interpreters may be exposing Deaf people to more standard forms than the Deaf callers see outside of interpreted interaction.

In their examination of the effect of video on ASL and interpreting Weisneberg and Garcia (2007) suggest that, “the technology has allowed for an efficiency and speed of communication that is so important to deaf callers that they are willing to drastically change their language…” (Weisenberg and Garcia 2007: 32). Weisenberg and Garcia were building on the work of Keating and Mirus (2003) who performed an early study of how communicating through video has influenced Deaf people’s signing. They note that the participants in their study made changes to their signing to in order to make sure they were understood, “Signers show multiple ways to adjust their sign production in order to maximize the communicative potential of the computer-mediated signing space.” (Keating and Mirus, 2003: 704). Keating and Mirus cite disruptions to video picture quality, reduced signing space, and a lack of shared referential space, as constraints that cause signers to adjust their language production in the hopes of greater clarity. One of the clarifying strategies noted by Keating and Mirus is an increased use of citation form signs.

One objection to the idea of interpreters as standard bearers (pun intended) is the idea that second language learners do not grasp the language fully enough to influence natural users. For example, Alley (forthcoming) examines Deaf callers propensity to shift to contact sign in VRS. Indeed both Keating and Mirus (2003) and Weisenberg and Garcia (2007) found that Deaf people often switch to contact sign when conversing over video. However, I suggest that the switch to contact sign is primarily a syntactic phenomenon where as the kind of dialect leveling referred to is primarily lexical and phonological, which may not be impacted by syntax. Therefore, if there is a move towards citation form or standard signing over video and interpreters are prone to using standard forms it is possible that any technological leveling is due to Deaf people’s interaction with interpreters. Because a VRS call can originate anywhere in the country and the Deaf caller could connect to an interpreter anywhere in the country there is a much greater chance that the interpreter and the Deaf caller would encounter a person who uses a different dialect than they themselves use. It is also possible that as periphery members of the network interpreters are more open to adopting new variants than core members of the Deaf community. In keeping with Fromkin and Rodman (1998) interpreters may quickly put these variants to use and then in keeping with Eckert (2001) pass them on to other segments of the Deaf community who may in turn adopt the variant in question. The final section of this paper will address a proposed pilot study to examine this idea.

Pilot Study Idea

In order to study how much possible influence interpreters may have over standardization we have to know how much contact video interpreters have with Deaf consumers. We have to know who Deaf people call and for how long in order to gauge how much of their time is spent in contact with signers who use dialects other than that used by the Deaf caller. We also need to know who the interpreters are and where, both geographically and institutionally, they learned ASL. I propose a survey of both interpreters and Deaf people asking the following.

-Online survey of interpreters. IRB and RID help with interpreters.
-Age (0-17 survey terminates, thank you for your time), 18-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50+
-Years interpreting
-Year of first certification
-Age of start of ASL acquisition
-ITP Grad Y/N
-Community College Grad Y/N
-University Grad Y/N
-Graduate School Y/N
-Do you work in VRS Y/N
-What % of your work is in VRS each month?
-Where (city/state) did most of your ASL acquisition take place?
-(Answer mapped to Lucas et al dialect map/RID regions)
-Did your ASL acquisition primarily use any of the following curriculums?
-Signing Naturally (Smith, Lentz, Mikos)
-American Sign Language aka The Green Books (Cokely, Baker-Shenk)
-The Joy of Signing (Riekenhof)
-Another ASL curriculum
-Primarily learned ASL from Deaf people

-Survey of Deaf people. IRB and NAD help (possible to do in ASL online?)

-Age (0-17 survey terminates, thank you for your time), 18-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50+
-Do you own a videophone?
-Do you use any other video chat or video calling device?
-Do you use VRS?
-How many calls do you make through VRS each day?
-How many calls do you make through VRS each week?
-What types of calls do you make most often?
-How long in minutes do you think your average call through VRS lasts?
-Do you video chat with other Deaf people?
-How many calls do you make to other Deaf people each day?
-How many calls do you make to other Deaf people each week?
-Are these calls usually to
-Family and friends
-For work or business?
-How long in minutes do you think your average call to another Deaf person lasts?
-How did you learn ASL?
-From my parents
-At a school for the Deaf
-From Deaf people later in life
-Other (Please specify)

-Where did you attend K-12 school?
-Deaf school or hearing school?
-Did you attend college?
-Were there other Deaf students at your college or university?
-Were there Deaf professors?
-Did you attend Gallaudet University?

Additionally I would like to recruit Deaf informants to keep a “Call Journal” near their VP and log their calls for one month. If the results show that Deaf people spend most of their videophone time on interpreted calls and very little time talking to other Deaf people from different areas or backgrounds it would indicate that it is possible that the perceived technological leveling could be due to contact with interpreters who employ the standard forms of ASL.


-Alcorn, B. and Humpries, J., 1995, So You Want to be an Interpreter, H & H Publishing Company; 2nd edition
-Alley, E., (forthcoming) Deaf Perspective on the Use of American Sign Language or Contact Sign When Using Video Relay Services, Gallaudet University, Washington D.C.

-Broecker, E. L., 1997, “Who Speaks for the Deaf Community? Not Who You Would Think!” in Who Speaks for the Deaf Community, A Deaf American Monograph, Farb, Anita B. ed., National Association of the Deaf, Silver Spring, MD
-Brunson, J. (????), Sign Language Interpreting: Moving Towards Professionalization, Gallaudet University.
-Chambers, J.K., 2003/2009, Sociolinguistic Theory, Blackwell Pubishers, Malden, MA
-Cheshire, J. 1978, Present Tense Verbs in Reading English, in Sociolinguistic Pattern sin British English, Trudgill, P. ed. Edward Arnold, London
-Cokely, D., 1981, “Sign Language Interpreters: A Demographic Study,” in Sign Language Studies, Stokoe, William C., ed., Linstock Press Inc, Silver Spring, MD
-Cokely, D. 2005, (The book you lent me the other day. I can’t find it online.)
-Cokely, D. 2010, What’s in Our Backpack?, Keynote address at 2010 PCRID Conference.
-Croneberg, C., 1965, Appendix C and Appendix D in A Dictionary of American Sign Language, Stokoe, W., Casterline, D., Croneberg, C. Linstock Press.
-Eckert, P. 2001, Style and Social Meaning, in Style and Sociolinguistic Variation, Eckert, P and Rickford, J, eds. Cambridge University Press
-Fromkin, V. and Rodman, R. 1998, An Introduction to Language, Hartcourt Brace College Publishers, Orlando, Florida
- Keating, E. and Mirus, G. (2003). “American Sign Language in virtual space: Interactions between deaf users of computer-mediated video communication and the impact of technology on language practices.” Language in Society 32, 693-714.
-Lucas, C. et al., 2001, Sociolinguistics in Deaf Communities, Gallaudet University Press, Washington D.C.
-MacNeil, R., 2005, “Do You Speak American?” PBS documentary
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