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From:  KKTurley
Date:  Fri May 15, 1998  12:53 am
Subject:  Re: Language History or Standardization of ASL

My first post, and it's a long one, but it's one I've been hoping to talk

One of the interesting things I remember from a college class in historical
linguistics (English-language) was how standardized spellings in English are a
fairly recent development which followed the popularization of the printing
press. As my professor would have it, spellings were more variable when most
of English was handwritten, as people with various dialects (and levels of
literacy) would spell words the way they pronounced them. In fact I seem to
recall being shown facsimiles, in Shakespeare's own handwriting, of several
different ways he spelled his own name . . . i.e. Shakspear, Shaxspear etc.

After the printing press became common, my prof said, typesetters in London,
where most of the printing presses were, presumably spelled words in a way
that represented, more or less, the sounds of a dialect of English spoken in
London--thus "standardizing" the written form of the language without there
ever being an Academy per se.

One other point my prof made was that the popularization of the printing press
markedly slowed the rate of language change in English, because the printed
texts served to keep the previous generations' English alive for their
descendants in a way that couldn't happen with spoken language--again without
an Academy.

What might writing/printing mean for ASL and other signed languages? Would,
say, a dialect used in some major Deaf population area become the "standard"
way that signs are printed, a la London/English? Will the rate of change in
ASL be slowed, such that this generation's ASL would be more intelligible to
future generations than George Veditz's is to this generation? (I have only
heard about the Veditz tape, I have not seen it, so if I'm wrong . . .)

Karen Turley
Cambridge, Mass.

  Replies Author Date
118 What A Day In CyberSpace! Valerie Sutton Wed  5/20/1998
205 Fingerspelling Keyboards Part 1 Valerie Sutton Sat  6/13/1998
216 Fingerspelling Keyboards Part 2 Valerie Sutton Fri  6/19/1998
217 Re: Dvorak Keyboard Layout Neil Bauman Sat  6/20/1998

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