Deaf studies

Linguicism: prejudice against sign language

Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, a renowned Danish linguist and activist in language rights against linguistic genocide in education, coined the term linguicism which defines as, in concise, a form of prejudice based on language.

Wikipedia defines linguicism as "a form of prejudice, an "-ism" along the lines of racism, ageism or sexism [or audism]. Broadly defined, it involves an individual making judgments about one's wealth, education, social status, character, and/or other traits based on choice and use of language."

Prejudice against sign language is as highly prevalent as audism. These scenarios are a few of numerous examples of linguicism.

Scenario: "ASL exists as a communication option for deaf children. However, it is just one such option and its use is declining" -- AG Bell, 2016

This not only exhibits deep-rooted audism, but also is a form of linguicism. This information is misleading and it gives a typical propaganda, reinforcing hearing ignorance and audism.

ASL is not an option nor a tool. It's not an alternative. It's a language. It's every person's birthright. The attempt to decline a language of the people is genocidal. Depriving a child, especially a deaf child, of their language violates a human right.

Scenario: At a clinic for my toddler's immunization at 18 months, the nurse asked me a series of questions on developmental milestones. As she came across a checklist on language development, a few lines of conversation revealed that her perception was that American Sign Language wasn't counted, despite the toddler's advanced language acquisition. But, she accepted the count of a few English words (as my kid's second language).

Years forward in kindergarten, my kid speaks both languages, ASL and English, natively.

Scenarios: there are variants of a scenario in which a deaf child tells an intricate story in ASL with rich grammar and vocabulary in front of hearing and hard of hearing students. At the end of his/her story, the class lightly applauded. Next, a deaf kid speaks a few words in English or tells a very simple story and the class cheerfully applauds.

"Lee Ivey (1957-1995) was locked in a school closet as a child for breaking the rules by using sign language in class." -- DawnSignPress brochure on the book "Deaf Artists in America".

"It's time for the truth to come out. One of AGB's most harmful ideologies was the Milan Treaty of 1880 that prohibited the use of sign languages. My Deaf grandparents along with their Deaf classmates had their hands whipped if they used ASL in classrooms of a deaf school. In comparison, it's like banning the use of English in English-speaking schools. " - Dawn Birley. May 2, 2017, FB.

Those are only a scratch of the whole experiences. Endless stories.

Related posts

If you like arts, you might be interested in linguicism-related art topic on One-Word Speech vs Thousand-Word Signing.

New to sign language? "Where do I start?" or "How do I start learning sign language?" This ASL Rookie guide lists some selected links to the tutorials for ASL beginners to get started and keep rolling. It may be a useful review for intermediate-level learners and ASL students as well.

Some tutorial pages are a mix of free and premium versions. Access to premium content and links below are available in the PatronPlus subscription. More links/posts will be added from time to time.

Expressing needs and wants

  1. Making commands or requests

Talking about activities

  1. Frequency of time: how often?

Are you able to carry everyday conversations in ASL? Are you a student in the intermediate levels and beyond, who wishes to boost up your signing skills? You've come to the selected tutorial series. (Some premium content are available to PatronPlus membership.)

Stories, poems, performance arts, etc. in sign language.

This documentation project follows a child's language acquisition, literacy development, and phonological acquisition in sign language, specifically ASL, from newborn to age five in a natural native-ASL environment and visual culture.