SASL Journal Vol. 1, No. 1 - Page 15

ASL: Access, Benefits, and Quality Rosen The consideration of how all languages share phonological constructs, while differing in phonemes, is important. Deaf students will need to first learn about ASL phonemes. In contrast to English phonemes, signs consist of parts in the form of handshape, location, movement and palm orientation. With this in mind, it is natural for hearing students to enjoy accessing English phonology due to their capacity of hearing the language. While not accessing the English language in the same way, deaf students will nevertheless understand that English phonology operates according to the same general principles of word structure found with ASL phonology. Deaf students will need to work around their inability to hear and process spoken words. They can see English words in print and will need to focus on developing spelling skills. Fingerspelling may come in handy as a tool to develop spelling skills. For other aspects of deaf students learning English, all languages share similar lexical categories, which are nouns, verbs, adjectives and prepositions, and similar phrases, which are verb phrases, noun phrases, adjective phrases and preposition phrases. They differ in functional categories consisting of lexical items that tie phrases together into sentences, and they include copulas, auxiliaries, plurality, and inflections (affixes). Deaf students knowing how ASL works as a language will be prepared for learning what is specific to English. This includes being aware that each sign in ASL and word in English have multiple meanings. These students will then choose words to fit meanings rather than signs and, vice versa, perform signs to fit meanings rather than words. Within phrases, all languages have specifiers to mark subjects, heads to mark lexical items, and complements to mark lexical categories. Languages differ in the ordering of specifier, head and complement in their phrasal structures. Regarding language differences in the ordering of specifier, head and complement in phrasal structures, English follows the specifier-head- complement order; French follows the specifier-complement-head order; and ASL follows both specifier-head-complement and complement-specifier-head orders. For instance, in English we say “John has a red car;” in French we say “John has a car red;” and in ASL we sign either JOHN HAS RED CAR, or RED CAR JOHN HAS. Deaf students will need to attend to the ordering of specifiers, heads and complements of phrasal structures. This is a cognitive process, not a simple sign-for-word and word-for-sign learning. Languages also differ in the order of words and phrases in sentences. Cross-linguistic cognitive studies show that all languages have different cognitive organization of information pertaining to the relationship between entities (nouns), attributes (adjectives), locations (prepositions) and movements (verbs) that generate different phrasal structures and word orders (Jarvis & Pavlenko, 2008; Langacker, 1987). For instance, picture a ball on a table, and compare ASL and English preposition phrases. English and ASL differ in the relationship between movement and location. In English movement precedes location and in ASL location precedes movement. In English we say “the ball is on the table,” where the noun phrase precedes the preposition phrase, tied together by a copula “is.” In ASL, we sign TABLE BALL BALL-ON- TABLE, where the preposition phrase precedes the noun phrase, and does not require the “is” copula. Deaf students would not be able to master English word and phrasal orders if they learn it by matching it with the word and phrasal orders of ASL. They must understand how languages differ in the way they conceptualize and organize notions of entities, nouns, attributes, locations and movements, and how they order grammatical components. What has been discussed thus far has support through research. Regarding deaf children’s learning of English, research studies of deaf students show that a few of them rely on sound-based phonological awareness to process print instructional materials. A meta-analytic study conducted SASLJ, Vol. 1, No. 1 – Fall/Winter 2017 15