James Hawking

Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Niemi, John A.

Degree Name

M.S. (Master of Science)

Legacy Department

Department of Leadership and Educational Policy Studies


Sign language; Deaf--Education


Hearing-impaired people make up a large portion of the American adult population. There is general agreement on the appropriateness of using some form of sign language in communicating with those hearing-impaired adults who prefer that mode. The methodology of this study is descriptive, using as sources early literary and religious writings relating to sign language, writings of pioneer educators of deaf people, contemporary studies on linguistics, sociological and anthropological research, educational journals, and the author's personal experiences in teaching deaf adults. The study examines the history of sign language; a variety of attestations of its existence before its use in education are traced. The early development of "methodological" sign language in France and the United States is explored. The return to "natural" sign language in both countries is examined. The conditions that led to the development of modern American Sign Language are outlined. Arguments to establish ASL as an independent and fully functional language are compiled. A widely-held theory that English ordered signs are "superior" is refuted. The relative appropriateness of ASL and signed English systems in adult education is discussed, along with personnel-related implications. The applicability of second language teaching techniques is presented, with implications and recommendations for further study. Appendices contain detailed demographic data, a discussion of the historical linguistics of sign language and the process of creolization and pidginization, an analysis of the social structure of the deaf community, and a list of resources available to educators of hearing-impaired adults. The conclusions drawn in the thesis are that American Sign Language developed from a language spoken by deaf people long before the intervention of educators of deaf people. This contributes to the pride that deaf people take in their own linguistic tradition. American Sign Language can be used as an effective and appropriate educational tool for hearing-impaired adults. Those who work with hearing-impaired adults should, therefore, be as familiar as possible with American Sign Language.


Includes bibliographical references.


v, 193 pages




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