ERIC Identifier: ED414674
Publication Date: 1997-08-00
Author: Gustason, Gerilee
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education Reston VA.
Educating Children Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing: English-Based Sign Systems. ERIC Digest #E556.
Sign language as used by deaf adults may resemble English, or it may be American Sign Language (ASL), which has a grammar, syntax, and idioms distinct from English. ASL is sometimes called a natural language because it evolved through use by people who were deaf. In contrast, English-based sign systems were developed by educators. These systems adopted much of the vocabulary of ASL but added grammatical features of English such as articles (a, an, the), verb endings (-s, -ing, -ed, -en), and other markers of English. English-based sign systems follow English syntax. In some systems English words are presented literally (e.g., one sign is used for the word "run" no matter what the meaning). In other systems the signs for English words may vary depending on the meaning of the word, to more closely relate to ASL.
One such system that remains close to ASL is Signed English (Bornstein, Hamilton, & Saulnier, 1983). This system is aimed at preschool and lower elementary children and includes a limited number of markers (e.g., -s, -ed, -ly). It retains many conceptual signs from ASL, such as "hair-yellow" for "blond". A number of children's storybooks such as Little Red Riding Hood are available in this system. A system no longer widely used that was extremely close to English is Seeing Essential English (Anthony, 1971), often referred to as SEE 1. This system used separate signs for English morphemes and signed by "root words" such as gene as the root for genetic, general, generous. The most widely used system that is close to English is Signing Exact English, or SEE 2. This system includes many more markers than Signed English (e.g., -ous, -ness, -ment) and signs by English word rather than by concept. In SEE 2 one would use the same signs for "is running" whether the subject is a man, the water, one's nose, or a car. In ASL the sign for "run" would differ in each of those situations.
Apart from specific vocabulary, all of the sign systems include the visual features of a signed language that add meaning and intonation to signing, such as shaking the head with a negative statement, raising the eyebrows with a yes-no question, placing signs according to meaning, and using facial expression and body movement to convey mood and tone.
Many individuals and programs use a mixture of systems. Because one can speak nearly twice as fast as one can sign, it takes commitment and practice to sign complete English. Many individuals sign in English word order but do not include word endings or markers. Some choose to sign by word meaning; others choose to follow the SEE 2 principle of signing by English word.
WHO CAN USE THIS OPTION?
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF THIS OPTION?
WHAT ARE THE LIMITATIONS OF THIS OPTION?
Do I believe in the importance of presenting complete English? Am I willing to take the time to become fluent? What is used in the schools in the area where I live? What materials are available to help me learn? How will I react if I meet negative attitudes from deaf adults? How will I ensure the child's involvement with the Deaf community and his/her self-esteem as a person who is deaf?
Bornstein, H. (Ed.) (1990). Manual communication: Implications for Education. Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press.
Bornstein, J., Hamilton, L., & Saulnier, K. (1983). The comprehensive Signed English dictionary. Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press.
Brasel, K. & Quigley, S. (1977). The influence of certain language and communication environments in early childhood on the development of language in deaf individuals. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 20, 95-107.
Gaustad, M.A.G. (1986). Longitudinal effects of manual English instruction on deaf children's morphological skills. Applied Psycholinguistics, 7, 101-128.
Luetke-Stahlman, B. (1988). The benefit of oral-English-only as compared with signed input to hearing impaired students. The Volta Review, 90(7), 349-361.
Luetke-Stahlman, B. (1993). Three PSE studies: Implications for educators. In M.P. Moeller (Ed.), Proceedings: Issues in Language and Deafness. Omaha, NE: Boys Town National Research Hospital.
The Gallaudet University Bookstore (800 Florida Ave., NE, Washington DC 20002) carries both Signed English and Signing Exact English materials. Gallaudet University Press publishes the Signed English materials, and has published a book, Manual communication: Implications for education (1990), edited by H. Bornstein, which provides detailed information on the topic. Specific questions about Signing Exact English may be referred to the SEE Center for the Advancement of Deaf Children (10443 Los Alamitos Blvd., Los Alamitos, CA 90720). SEE 2 materials are published by Modern Sign Press, Inc., PO Box 1181, Los Alamitos, CA 90720.