• Length:
    4 Weeks
  • Effort:
    5–6 hours per week
  • Price:

    FREE
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  • Institution
  • Subject:
  • Level:
    Advanced
  • Language:
    English
  • Video Transcript:
    English

Prerequisites

None

About this course

This course aims to integrate the history of ideas about American Sign Language (ASL) with research that has been done on the structure, learning, and historical change of ASL and other sign languages.
  • Structure is crucial to languages. There are several layers of grammatical structure in all languages. We will learn about these and examine how sign languages are structured.
  • Learning is how children and adults acquire the ability to understand and use a sign language.
  • Change takes place over time in all languages. Recent research on historical change in ASL and other sign languages has begun to reveal how sign languages come into existence and how they change as they are used over generations among deaf and hearing users. We will look at historical change in depth, especially the historical heritage of ASL.
This course is a four-week self-paced course. Lecture videos are delivered in ASL with English subtitles and voiceover. The course will introduce all of these students to the science of sign language research and, for fluent ASL signers, the history and structure of their own language.  It will also expose students at the intermediate level to the fields of linguistics and the cognitive sciences.

What you'll learn

  • Historical origins in natural gesture for the emergence of ASL grammar
  • Degree and types of structural variation within ASL, considering the possible influences from its contacts with other signed and spoken languages
  • Role of visual analogy in learning ASL, considering the possible linguistic universals for signed languages
  • Ways in which language specific variation and historical change for signed languages may compare and contrast to those for spoken languages 
  • Visual, motoric, and cognitive constraints which may give rise to these phenomena
Module 1
  • Fundamental issues for language status
  • Emergence and evolution of sign language
  • History of American Sign Language
  • Variation and change within ASL
  • Lexical representation and annotation
  • Cognitive processing
  • From transparent to opaque morphology
  • Literary innovation constrained by grammar
  • Framework for Sign Language Structure, Learning and Change

Module 2
  • Sign features and syntactic packaging
  • Co-articulation and timing of suprasegmentals
  • Interaction of syntax and prosody
  • The spatial architecture for linguistic scaffolding
  • Reference frame and spatial verb typology
  • Core lexemes and frozen derivatives
  • Layering of lexical representation and articulatory operations
  • Linear template and syntactic agreement slots
  • Optimizing loan words for syntactic agreement
  • Split between inflectional space and lexicon
 
Module 3
  • Biological and environmental factors for language acquisition and evolution
  • Challenge of designing a visual language based on English morphology
  • Potential impact of visual analogy on grammar
  • Morphological typology and complexity
  • The neurobiology of sign language processing
  • Reframing ASL as a classifier predicate language
  • Acquisition of ASL morphology
  • Best-fit architecture and cognitive scaffolding
  • Factors affecting homogenous use of sign language
  • Natural experiment for language evolution

Module 4
  • Sign language archaeology
  • Emergence of grammar
  • Gestural discourse dynamics and collective memory
  • Historical sociolinguistics
  • History of polyglottism and diglossia in Deaf community
  • Reconstructing early ASL grammar
  • From syntax to bound morphology
  • Development of bound morphology
  • The current state of sign language structure, learning and change

Meet your instructors

Ted Supalla
Professor of Neurology, Linguistics, and Psychology
Georgetown University

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