SASLJ Vol. 2 No. 2 - Page 99

Unlocking the Curriculum Johnson et al. In regard to the day to day practical aspects of Total Communication, the concept simply means that, in so far as possible, those persons within the child's immediate environment should talk and sign simultaneously, and the child should be benefiting from appropriate amplification. This, of course, is based upon the belief that it is indeed possible to sign what one says with respect to English syntax, and that signs and speech can be compatible. The consistent use of simultaneous speech and signing and the consistent use of appropriate amplification provides [sic] the child with a syntactical model for imitation which is both visual and auditory. The highly visual and dramatic language of signs operate [sic] as the foundation of Total Communication reinforcing, undergirding and clarifying those minimal clues available through speechreading. Likewise, minimal auditory clues are enhanced and reinforced by signs and speechreading. For all of us then, communication is total or multi dimensional ... [sic] one dimension enhancing, reinforcing and enriching the other. But the validity of the underlying assumption that any system of signs (either natural or invented) is capable of representing speech in a way which will allow it to serve as a model for the natural acquisition of a spoken language has never been demonstrated. From the time that SSS was first instituted as educational practice, linguists and some educators have argued that it is unable to serve the purposes claimed for it (Charrow, 1975; Reich & Bick, 1977; Stevens, 1976; Quigley & Kretschmer, 1982; Johnson & Erting, in press). Evidence suggests that grammars of English developed by deaf children who see SSS as their model do not conform to the grammars of English developed by hearing children who learn English through listening and speaking. Charrow (1974) demonstrated that the broad variation in the written English of deaf children points to the existence of highly idiosyncratic grammars of English, which differ substantially from standard English, and result in the kind of productions typically labelled "deaf English." S. Supalla (1986) provides evidence that the grammars of children's "English" signing are also characterized by significant idiosyncratic divergences from the grammars predicted by the educational model. He studied the signed output of deaf students who had been in an "ideal" signed English environment for several years. Although their teacher produced faithful signed renderings of English sentences while teaching, the signing of the students did not show evidence of genuine competence in English. He found that each child formed an idiosyncratic grammar, containing innovations quite unlike English, but resembling in some ways the complex verb morphology of natural sign languages. This study clearly suggests that it is unrealistic to expect that exposure to signed English will lead naturally to the acquisition of competent English grammar, either spoken or signed. Research on the acquisition of spoken languages by hearing children confirms that such results can be expected. McLaughlin (1984, pp. 188-9, p. 194) summarizes work that demonstrates that when hearing children or adults attempt to learn a second language before adequately learning a first language, or when one or both linguistic environments are impoverished, the resulting grammars will be idiosyncratic with respect to the ordinary grammatical patterns of the target language. Moreover, he contends that such results are predictable if the two languages are not clearly differentiated (1984, p. 213). From this perspective it appears that the mixture of English SASLJ, Vol. 2, No. 2 – Fall/Winter 2018 99