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Monday, January 13, 2014

A Deaf Linguist Explores Black American Sign Language

by Heidi Landecker

Students were required to wear hearing-assistance devices in schools like the Southern School for the Colored Deaf and Blind, in Scotlandville, La. The school was established in 1938. (Image courtesy of Joseph Hill, Black ASL Project)
Joseph Hill, an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, believes he is the only black, deaf, Ph.D. linguist in America, and maybe in the world. “Just me,” he told an audience of about 40 people on Sunday at the Linguistic Society of America’s annual meeting in Minneapolis. “No pressure,” he added.
Hill, who is 34, and tall, was giving a talk, “How Black ASL Can Create Opportunities for Diversity in Sign-Language Research,” as part of a symposium on diversity in linguistics. He was speaking in American Sign Language, of course, but because his lips moved along with his hands, to a listener in the back of the room it seemed as if he, and not the interpreter, was talking. That is, until Hill’s lips stopped moving and the voice of the interpreter kept going. (The interpreter turned out to be seated unobtrusively at the front, speaking into a microphone with his back to the audience, so he could read Hill’s signing.)
Before Hill got to the research opportunities, he gave a brief history of how deaf education led to Black ASL. The first school for the deaf was established in Hartford, Conn., in 1817, by Thomas Gallaudet, a hearing American whose son would later found Gallaudet University, in Washington, and a deaf Frenchman named Laurent Clerc.
For the complete article, click here 

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