This article is about a dialect of American Sign Language (ASL) spoken by the Black Deaf in the American South that arose out of the segregation of schools for the deaf prior to Brown v. Board. It covers the sociocultural history that led to the language split as well as the features that distinguish it from other dialects of ASL. Research into the dialect has only been going on intensively for the last two decades and the article incorporates the most comprehensive studies of the dialect as well as a number of small scale studies. Wugapodes (talk) 22:51, 22 November 2015 (UTC)
Comments. As always, feel free to revert my copyediting. - Dank (push to talk)
Hi Wug. (I'm proud to say, I got the joke in the name, right down to "octopodes".) Reading through now. - Dank (push to talk) 03:12, 24 November 2015 (UTC)
"the first school exclusively for the Black deaf—The School for the Colored Deaf, Dumb, and Blind": It doesn't sound like the school was exclusively for the Black deaf; was it?
I'm occasionally removing repetition of words when there's a way around repeating them. My crude understanding is that psycholinguists approve of this kind of copyediting; see for instance The Sense of Style (and I'll be happy to hunt up a page number). You can always revert, and then it's up to the FAC coords to decide if it makes a difference to them. - Dank (push to talk) 13:23, 24 November 2015 (UTC)
"The use of repetition by BASL signers is considered to be pragmatic rather than clarifying as most instances were of declarative statements and, cross-linguistically, pragmatic repetition in statements is common.": I'm sorry, I didn't follow that.
"A study in 2004 by Melanie Metzger and Susan Mather found that Black male signers used constructed action, with or without constructed dialogue, more often than White signers, but never used constructed dialogue by itself.": At a minimum, those links will need to turn blue for readers to know what you mean.
Support on prose per standard disclaimer. These are my edits. Glad you brought this to FAC. It's a fascinating subject, and I'd like to see it on the Main Page one day. - Dank (push to talk) 15:26, 24 November 2015 (UTC)
Thanks for the feedback and especially the copyedit. The article's better for it. I rechecked the source about the Skinner school and revised the sentence accordingly, I tried to clarify the sentence on pragmatic repetition as best I could, and I plan to create an article (or two) on constructed action and dialogue, I just need to find more sources. Wugapodes (talk) 04:41, 25 November 2015 (UTC)
Your changes look good. Welcome aboard. - Dank (push to talk) 05:03, 25 November 2015 (UTC)
Images are appropriately licensed. Nikkimaria (talk) 14:42, 27 November 2015 (UTC)
Comment That it is a dialect (rather than, say, a style) should be referenced (and the word linked), and perhaps discussed further. Not all the sources seem to describe it so. There are no specific examples of differences mentioned, which one would certainly expect in an FA on a dialect. Johnbod (talk) 13:59, 4 December 2015 (UTC)
Thanks for the comment! I do agree that specific examples of signs that vary should be included and will add them in this weekend. I sourced the sentence in the History section that claims it is a dialect to Ethnologue. I did not include a discussion on the terminology as it has very little to do with the language variety itself, and there is no controversy regarding the terminology to discuss rather just an evolution in the terminology and scholarship. To give a brief overview, early work referred to it as a language variety (which encompasses styles, accents, and dialects) because there was very little data on it. Then McCaskill, et al. put forth a lot of data in the first comprehensive study of the variety in 2011. In 2012 Clint Brockway, adjunct faculty at UA Little Rock, put forth an argument in favor of calling it a dialect based upon the available data, particularly in McCaskill, et all. 2011 (this isn't to say Brockway's essay was very influential in the field--it wasn't--rather, it shows what those paying attention to the data were thinking and the arguments in support of it). And in the most recent version of Ethnologue (2015), BASL is refered to as a dialect showing there is at least some agreement in the field that it can be considered a dialect. This is how language typology typically works and isn't worth discussing as the discussion would simply be "We didn't have data, then we had data, then we called it that because we now have data" which has almost nothing to do with the dialect itself, but rather the academics surrounding it. Wugapodes (talk) 03:26, 5 December 2015 (UTC)
Can't agree with that. You should cover this in the article. At the moment, that it is a dialect at all is unreferenced, though you keep saying it is. Johnbod (talk) 14:21, 5 December 2015 (UTC)
Why are you saying that it's unreferenced? This edit added a citation to Ethnologue. Ethnologue has a section entitled "dialects" the first dialect listed is "Black American Sign Language". Even the Dictionary of American Sign Language in 1965 put the variety spoken by African Americans under the heading "Dialects". If you would like a particular line referenced, you need to be more clear than just stating it's unreferenced.
If you add a reference after a comment saying there is no reference, you need to say here you have done so. Don't expect reviewers to to follow every edit to an article between visits; there are often very many of these and they won't be doing that. Johnbod (talk) 03:59, 6 December 2015 (UTC)
I did. Third sentence of my first reply to you: "I sourced the sentence in the History section that claims it is a dialect to Ethnologue." Wugapodes (talk) 06:37, 6 December 2015 (UTC)
I cannot include a discussion of whether to call it a variety or dialect because there are no sources about it. There's no conflict between the two terms, and no conflict within the field as to which term to use. "Variety" seems to be used in primary sources (McCaskill 2011, Lucas 2015, etc) while "dialect" in secondary (Stokoe 1965, Ethnologue 2015, Brockway 2012, etc). Brockway seems to be the only person to do a literature review and argue for "dialect", but while no one has rebutted him, his essay isn't the same quality of source as the others in the article possibly being self-published.
The choice between the two terms seems largely dependent on the author. I chose "dialect" because it is used more frequently in secondary sources like The Dictionary of American Sign Language, Ethnologue, Brockway, All Things Linguistic, etc which are independent of the subject. It's the term people not working on the language call it upon looking at the primary literature. McCaskill, Lucas, and others researching the dialect are not as independent of the subject matter. So I chose the term used in the most recent secondary sources rather than primary sources.
If you would like to discuss whether that decision is justified or not, I would be glad to do so, but there is no discussion in the literature to put in this article, and I can't create it from my own analysis of sources. Having laid out my reasoning twice, if you would like me to take a particular course of action, I need something more substantial than "can't agree". Wugapodes (talk) 23:45, 5 December 2015 (UTC)
If "The choice between the two terms seems largely dependent on the author", maybe you should say something along these lines, rather than silently selecting a single term. Johnbod (talk) 03:59, 6 December 2015 (UTC)
There's no source that says that. We don't need a footnote every time an editor uses editorial discretion. If we did most of our articles would be footnotes or discussions on why certain words were chosen over others. Because "language variety" and "dialect" are not contradictory but synonymous, because the claim that BASL is a dialect is reliably sourced to multiple independent sources, and because there is not consensus for the change (considering none of your arguments have convinced me the change is good or necessary), I will not be making the edit you suggest. If any of those things change (particularly consensus), I will reconsider. Wugapodes (talk) 06:37, 6 December 2015 (UTC)
This is very minor and picky, but is there a less wordy way to say "segregation created two speech communities that led to ASL diverging into two dialects"? Could it say "caused ASL to diverge into" without changing the meaning? Also, was there only one dialect prior to this?
I chose that wording because it's rather precise. The two communities helped the divergence but I'm wary of a causal relationship. Speech communities are formed all the time and don't lead to new dialects, and besides that the sources don't support a causal relationship. It's probably impossible to say how many dialects there were then, but there was likely only one in the community I was referring to in the sentence. Wugapodes (talk) 18:36, 30 December 2015 (UTC)
Repetitive sentence: "The first school for the deaf, The American School for the Deaf (ASD), was founded in 1817 but did not admit any Black deaf students until 1952." Could you take out one or two instances of 'deaf' and retain clarity?
I would split this long sentence into two: "Seeing a lack of educational opportunities for the Black deaf, Dr. Platt Skinner founded the first school to accept the Black deaf—The School for the Colored Deaf, Dumb, and Blind—in 1856 in Niagara Falls, New York, saying: '[it] is the first effort of its kind in the country ... We receive and instruct those and only those who are refused admission to all other institutions and are despised on account of their color."" Also there's the repetition of the word 'deaf' again.
I think use of 'as' to mean 'since' is discouraged, because it makes the meaning more ambiguous. e.g. "integration was sparse as some institutions allowed Black students"; "As the education of White children was privileged"; "as Oralist methods often forbade usage of sign language"; "as younger signers would have more contact with AAE".
Done? I suggest you take a look at this one. My ability to distinguish between 'since' and 'as' is terrible unfortunately and I'm not sure how well I managed. Wugapodes (talk) 18:36, 30 December 2015 (UTC)
Took a crack at a couple of them, see what you think. delldot∇. 01:44, 31 December 2015 (UTC)
In this sentence, is there a reason for 'usage' instead of 'use'? My understanding is it's best to use the more common word (e.g. choose 'while' over 'whilst'). "Oralist methods often forbade usage of sign language".
Nope, I just felt like it at the time. I agree with you so I will change it. Wugapodes (talk) 18:36, 30 December 2015 (UTC)
Might it work better for flow to move the last sentence in the third para (beginning "Despite the decision in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954") to before the one in the same para beginning "Black Deaf children thus became a language community isolated from the White Deaf"? I see why you did it that way, but my way you have '1. info about school segregation, 2. the effects on Black Deaf signers, 3. examples of the effects after integration.'
I see your point, though the reason I have it there is chronological. The schools were segregated, speech communities formed, dialects diverged, schools were integrated. I felt like chronology was that better way to organize the history section. I do agree that yours works thematically, and may be better. I'm unsure of what I prefer at the moment. What are your thoughts? Do you think a chronological or thematic organization is better in this instance? Wugapodes (talk) 18:36, 30 December 2015 (UTC)
Either is fine actually, I don't know why I got worried over this one sentence. delldot∇. 01:44, 31 December 2015 (UTC)
is the first para in the History section necessary? The lead has the info, and it's repeated a couple paras down. Seems like unnecessary repetition.
Done. I merged the opening line in with the next paragraph and deleted the repetitive sentence on speech communities from it. Wugapodes (talk) 18:36, 30 December 2015 (UTC)
I needed an explanation of 'phonology', so I followed the link and got "Phonology is a branch of linguistics concerned with the systematic organization of sounds in languages." Maybe a sentence or parenthetical to explain what phonology means here?
Cool. I'm in the camp of define everything in your article so people don't have to stop reading yours to go to the linked article. But I know others are fine with it this way. delldot∇. 01:44, 31 December 2015 (UTC)
Last sentence: "Other loans words modified existing signs..." Should it be "loan words"? "loaned words"?
It was a typo. Fixed. Wugapodes (talk) 18:36, 30 December 2015 (UTC)
Small list of references, which means a heavy dependence on a few resources. Is there not much else written on the subject? I did a quick search and found this chapter, was there nothing usable in it?
That chapter is largely a summary of McCaskill, et al. (2011) which is the main source for this article. McCaskill is the first and currently only systematic study of the dialect unfortunately. There are remarkably few reliable sources that are independent of its findings, and so I chose to cite it many times rather than cite other books that just reiterate its claims. Wugapodes (talk) 18:36, 30 December 2015 (UTC)
Fair enough. delldot∇. 01:44, 31 December 2015 (UTC)
Questions I still have after reading this article: How many dialects of ASL are there? How similar is BASL to the others? What percentage of overlap in words is there? The last sentence in History says "Carl Croneberg was the first to discuss differences...", maybe this para could expand more on what some of the differences are? P. 41 in this book mentions some numbers from one study about differences in signs. (Ooh, also answers my above question about phonology!) I'm from natural sciences--give me numbers!
These are hard questions to answer. Your first is part of an open question in linguistics as a whole. Depending on how you count, there can be tens to hundreds of dialects of ASL (see Varieties of American Sign Language which only lists national varieties derived from ASL) as dividing between accent, dialect, and language is more of a heuristic than a strict science (see the Linguistic Society of America's page on how many langauges are there to see how counting languages is still problematic). Numbers are also hard to come by as I don't think they've been produced. Your last two questions refer to lexicostatistics which would be a valuable addition if they existed for this dialect. I can try and expand on Croneberg's contribution, though it wasn't strictly related to BASL (it was about the sociology of the Deaf community as a whole and just touched on the issue). The book you linked is a good one (notably by two authors of McCaskill, et al. 2011). Though I tried to stay away from including numbers too often. I realize there is a lack of numbers in the lexical variation section so I will fix that. Wugapodes (talk) 18:36, 30 December 2015 (UTC)
Cool. I like the addition of the numbers. I guess my confusion is that the whole article talks about BASL vs. ASL, as if ASL was this monolithic thing. (e.g. the signing space image). Is there one standard ASL with a bunch of deviations, or is any ASL speaker you talk to going to be speaking southern, western, midwestern, or whatever? And is BASL much more different than any of these, or would speakers of any two dialects have the trouble understanding each other that McCaskill described with her teacher? I don't know if the information exists to add to the article but anything you could do to clarify that I think would be helpful. delldot∇. 01:44, 31 December 2015 (UTC)
The short answer is, there isn't much data on those questions (though I would love those answers too!). But I think I could clarify better and will try to do so.
The long answer (based on a lot of synthesis of sources) is that research on ASL in general is comparatively limited in linguistics. There's a lot of regional variation in ASL on the level of accents, and a lot of work on it, but not a lot on the sociolinguistics of it (work on that has only flourished in the last couple decades). Add to that the limitations of the work on BASL—research has really only been done in the South, has focused more on identifying the dialect than in depth descriptive work—and there's just not a lot of large-scale comparative work.
However, I think part of the problem is I'm assuming a lot of background knowledge and can probably clarify a bit more. I worried about turning the article into a sociolinguistics text book, but may have swung too far in the other direction. To answer your first question, there is a "standard" ASL in the same way there is a "standard" English with prescriptive rules, but it is different from the actual spoken varieties. In fact, no one actually natively speaks "Standard American English" (or Standard ASL for that matter). Standard languages are a product of language ideology and in (socio)linguistics are used as a kind of null hypothesis. Basically, there's this idealized standard that you compare dialects to. The confusing part is that prestige dialects often co-opt the name of the language, like how Mandarin Chinese is considered "Chinese" despite just being one dialect of the whole of Chinese dialects, or Midwestern American English considered "accentless" despite being an accent itself. There's a reason we joke that a language is just a dialect with an army and a navy. Anyway, I'll get to trying to clarify or add a section explaining those things Wugapodes (talk)
Yeah, that's helpful, I'm eager to see what you add. I don't want to get you in trouble with others for going outside the scope of this article, but if you stick to summarizing you should be ok. delldot∇. 00:11, 1 January 2016 (UTC)
Okay, I made this edit which added a bit on standardization and prestige dialects (and gave links to them). I also related it to perceptions of BASL itself (though there isn't much information on that). Sorry it took me so long, I needed to find a few more sources on tangential topics. I hope the added material is helpful. Are there any other recommendations you have for the article? Wugapodes (talk) 04:37, 2 January 2016 (UTC)
Nice! I think the para could use a bit of copy editing for awkward wording ("there are still regional accents of ASL similar to spoken languages", "considered bad", "different groups of people".) But I think the content is great. I noticed in the lead commented out is the fact that "the two dialects are mutually intelligible", which I think is a really important point that should be included. Well, at least now it's implied, but it's contradicted by the quote from McCaskill. delldot∇. 07:24, 2 January 2016 (UTC)
I forgot about that comment. I have included it. McCaskill's quote doesn't really contradict it though. She recounts when the schools were first integrated and the dialects first came into contact, while the study on code-switching is from about 30 years after in the 1990s allowing some time to increase familiarity and some convergence. Plus mutual intelligibility can still cause misunderstandings. Scots and American English are mutually intelligible, but if I'm talking with a Scots speaker, I'm going to be rather confused. Wugapodes (talk) 18:18, 2 January 2016 (UTC)
The image Typical ASL Signing Space representation.svg doesn't have a corresponding box for BASL. The caption just says "outside of this area"--kind of vague. I'd be happy to alter that image in inkscape if I knew how big to make the box. Then you could have them side by side for comparison.
The reason the image looks as it does (I created it) is because only the ASL signing space is well defined. For BASL, the signing space is only referenced as larger, I could not find a concrete description of how much larger it is. So I display the typical signing space and say that BASL allows signs outside of it because that's all I really know from the sources. Wugapodes (talk) 18:36, 30 December 2015 (UTC)
It's a short article, and I'm wondering if it's really comprehensive. e.g. The Oxford Handbook of African American Language that I linked to above mentions prosity and rate differences in BASL and ASL. It also mentions some implications for the future, maybe the article could include some of these.
To be quite honest with you, my biggest concern was comprehensiveness. There is a lot we do not know about BASL; the first systematic study on it was only finished 5 years ago. However, I believe the article is comprehensive. While there is only so much information available on BASL, the best information in the field is included in the article (and as more becomes available, more will be included). To address your point, the chapter touches on prosody and speech rate (which itself is a problematic metric, but you're not here for a linguistic methods course so I'll let it be), but there isn't any real information on it. Hill, et al. simply state they noticed some differences in head and torso movement as well as speech rate but don't explain or offer any analysis. I am hesitant to include it because it's a rather weak claim compared to the other information and I believe would be undue.Wugapodes (talk) 18:36, 30 December 2015 (UTC)
Fair enough. delldot∇. 01:44, 31 December 2015 (UTC)
Not bad so far though! delldot∇. 08:03, 28 December 2015 (UTC)
Thank you so much for your comments, delldot! I've been busy the last few days, and I'm really sorry that I'm just noticing this. I'm unfortunately going to sleep at the moment, but I will address all of these first thing in the morning (probably around 1900 UTC). Wugapodes (talk) 08:53, 30 December 2015 (UTC)
I have addressed your points. Sorry if I'm long winded, but you gave me a lot to think about. Only a few of my responses need your attention, and feel free to ask more questions or disagree with me if you think things still should be changed. Wugapodes (talk) 18:36, 30 December 2015 (UTC)
No, your responses were great. The only thing I didn't strike was the question of how different BASL is from other dialects of ASL (i.e. are all dialects of ASL that are spoken by mostly non-Black signers more similar to each other than to BASL, or is BASL just one among many different dialects, not more divergent than some other types?). I don't know if it's possible to fully answer the question given the paucity of study, but I'm eager to see what you do with it. Thanks for all the work you've put in! delldot∇. 01:44, 31 December 2015 (UTC)
Everything's dealt with now. I hope you'll keep adding info as further studies become available, as we discussed. But it looks like this is comprehensive for what exists. Great work! support. delldot∇. 21:52, 2 January 2016 (UTC)
"'although despite BASL is mutually intelligible with other dialects of ASL. - remove the "despite"?
Are there examples of same signs that have different meanings in ASL and BASL?
Overall an engaging and fascinating topic - the prose is such that I just fell into reading it without necessarily noting anything to fix. I'll take another look but think this looks on track for FA-hood. Cas Liber (talk·contribs) 12:03, 17 January 2016 (UTC)
Thanks for taking the time to read through the article! I revised the one sentence in my last edit. Your second comment is more complicated. I haven't come across any sources that explicitly say these two identical signs have different meanings in each dialect, but there is an example of Trip which means 'to fall' in ASL but the same sign done in a different location in BASL means 'imagining things' (while in the idiom 'Stop tripping'). It's the last sentence in the article. Wugapodes (talk) 19:23, 17 January 2016 (UTC)
Oops, missed that one - interesting topic. Okay then, my personal preference is inclusiveness so reading the article leaves me curious to read more examples on how the languages differ, yet I suspect these are not systemic or essential, so it's a support from me on comprehensiveness and prose. Cas Liber (talk·contribs) 19:38, 17 January 2016 (UTC)
Coordinator note - Has this had a source review? Wugapodes, as this seems to be your first time at FAC, we will also need an audit of sources for close paraphrasing/copyvio. Unless I have missed them somewhere, please request at WT:FAC. --Laser brain(talk) 18:54, 29 January 2016 (UTC)
Requested. It is largely offline sources which might make some wary, so I would be willing to provide scans of various pages to anyone willing to take on that audit to make their life easier. Wugapodes (talk) 19:08, 29 January 2016 (UTC)
@Laser brain: It's been a while with no source review. Would it be okay if I posted a request on the talk pages of WikiProjects Deaf and Linguistics to see if anyone would be willing to do the source audit? Wugapodes (talk) 18:43, 16 February 2016 (UTC)
@Casliber: Thanks for the source review and spot check! I think I have addressed all of the formatting issues and included ISBN-13 codes for the books. If there's anything more you think needs to be done, let me know! Wugapodes (talk) 19:44, 19 February 2016 (UTC)