Deaf Culture Terminology

ADA: The 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act. This is one of the most important pieces of legislation, advocating the rights of deaf people, as well as other individuals with disabilities. It states that reasonable accommodation must be offerred to people with disabilities as long as the accommodation is not an undue burden.

ALD: assistive listening device.

Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf: Organization that promotes oralism and discourages sign language. The association has approximately 10,000 members, approximately 500 of whom are deaf. See also NAD.

Ameslan: Alternate name for ASL.

ASL: American Sign Language.

Auslan: Australian sign language. Auslan is similar to BSL, but is very different from ASL.

Bi-Bi: Bilingual-Bicultural. An educational approach in which deaf students learn both ASL and English, focusing on ASL, which is easier to learn than spoken English for deaf children, then using the means of communication afforded by ASL to teach student English. Although this is considered to be a new approach to the education of deaf children since the shortcomings of Total Communication and Sim-Com have come to light, really the bi-bi philosophy has been around at least since Edward Minor Gallaudet, founder of Gallaudent University. He was a proponent of students learning both English and ASL.

BSL: British Sign Language.

C.A.S.E.: Conceptually Accurate Signed English.

CI: cochlear implant.

closed captioning: Captioning, or words on a screen similar to subtitles, that can be turned on and off, like on a television, unlike open captioning, like at movie theaters that offer open captioning, which is printed on the film of the movie and cannot be turned off. Under the Television Decoder Circuitry Act of 1990, all televisions 13 inches or larger sold in the U.S. after 1992 must have built in captioning decoder circuitry. Further, under the Telecommunications Act of 1996, all new programming on television and commercial videotapes used in the U.S. from 2004 must have closed captioning, with the exception of an undue burden cap of 2% of the producer's gross income. Unfortunately, this law goes unchecked all too often, and a lot of new television programming and commercial videotapes still do not have closed captioning. See also open captioning and reflective captioning.

coda: child of Deaf adult(s). This term is usually applied to hearing individuals whose parent or parents are deaf, whereas Deaf individuals with Deaf parents are usually known by such terms as "Deaf of Deaf". Codas play a unique role in Deaf culture in that they are hearing yet still live in the Deaf community and understand to a great degree the challenges of the Deaf. Often codas become interpreters, and some have even become hearing mouthpieces for Deaf advocacy. It is also not unheard of for some codas to reject Deaf culture during adolescence only to embrace it again later as adults. See also soda.

contact language: See PSE.

contact sign: See PSE.

cued speech: A system of hand shapes around the face used to show the different sounds of spoken language. Cued speech was developed 1966 by Dr. R. Orin Cornett at Gallaudet University to help deaf people learn to read English. See also MCE.

DPN: Deaf President Now. Protests held at Gallaudet University in 1988, protesting the installment of hearing a candidate who did not know sign language and had no experience with Deaf culture as the university president over qualified Deaf candidates. The Deaf President Now protests lead to the new president stepping down and the installation of the first deaf president, Dr. I. King Jordan, as well as greater awareness and advocacy of Deaf rights.

expressive skills: How well a person can sign clearly to other people in order to be understood. These skills are similar to speaking skills of spoken languages. See also receptive skills.

finger spelling: A set of hand shapes and motions that represent each letter of the alphabet. Also spelled fingerspelling.

Gallaudet University: The only university in the world dedicated to the education of the deaf. Located in Washington D.C., the university was founded in 1864. See also DPN.

Gestuno: An invented sign language, made in an attempt to create a universal sign language. Although Gestuno is only used at a few international gatherings, the myth that all sign language is universal has risen, even though there are over 200 different sign languages worldwide.

HH: hard of hearing. Same as hoh.

HI: hearing impaired. You want to be careful when you use the term hearing impaired. Even though it was created to avoid offending deaf people by sounding politicially correct, some deaf people take great offense to the term because they do not consider themselves to be impaired or disabled. Generally speaking, such individuals tend to be well rooted in the Deaf culture, whereas some deaf individuals who have lived outside of the Deaf culture may not see the term as offensive. Other terms to avoid include "deaf-mute" and "deaf and dumb." Although the term "dumb" refers to being unable to speak, not having low intelligence, the stigma of the homonyms still exists. Moreover, not all deaf people are mute; rather, many can speak so well that often hearing people refuse to believe they are deaf. (This in turn causes difficulties when people continually forget a deaf person cannot hear them because they can talk, and also when government employees refuse to give deaf persons benefits because they do not believe a person who is deaf could speak so well. Thus, many deaf people prefer not to speak in such situations so that people will understand that they are deaf.)

hoh: hard of hearing. Same as HH.

home sign: a set or system of signs that is developed by a highly localized group and that is different than commonly known sign language. As the name suggests, home sign is sometimes developed between hearing parents and their deaf children.

IDEA: The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Passed in 1975 and amended in 1990 in the ADA, this legislation guarantees the right to free and appropriate public education (FAPE) for all children, including deaf (or otherwise disabled) children. See also ADA.

IEP: Individual Education Plan. When children require special education services, an IEP must be developed by the student's school and parents. If you have a child who requires special education services, be sure to study your legal rights with your child's IEP. For example, the school cannot come up with choices for an IEP, which the parent chooses, rather the IEP must be developed by parents and school officials working together. Also, parents may have legal experts present at IEP meetings, and deaf parents, regardless whether the student is deaf or not, are entitled to an interpreter, which the school must provide.

JSL: Japanese Sign Language. Called Shuwa () in the Japanese language, shu () meaning "hand" and wa () meaning "language" or "conversation".

late deafened: 1. Becoming deaf after language acquasition. 2. Becoming deaf as an adult. 3. Becoming deaf later in life. The first deaf president of Gallaudet University, Dr. I. King Jordan, was late deafened due to a motorcycle accident in his early 20s.

L.O.V.E.: Linguistics of Visual English. See also MCE.

LRE: least restrictive environment. Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), passed in 1975 and amended in 1990, children have the right to an education in the least restrictive environment. Ironically, although this legistlation has helped many children with disabilities receive educations in public schools, due to the unique nature of language barrier faced by deaf children, placing them in mainstream public schools rather than residential schools for the deaf in many cases makes it much more difficult for them to learn. See also mainstreaming and residential schools.

mainstreaming: Placing deaf children in hearing public schools, either in "self-contained classes" with special education students or in ordinary hearing classes, with or without real-time captioning or sign language interpreters. See also LRE and residential schools.

MCE: Manually Coded English. Manually Coded English encompasses all of the various code systems used to show English through sign language. Some of the more well known MCEs include Signed English, SEE 1, SEE 2, cued speech, and the Rochester Method. In their book, A Journey in the DEAF-WORLD, Harlan Lane and his fellow authors describe MCE systems as "any of several signing systems invented by educators to represent words in English sentences using signs borrowed from ASL combined with signs contrived to serve as translation equivalents for English function words (articles, prepositions, etc.) and prefixes and suffixes" (270). MCEs are not languages; they are codes that represent the English language, whereas ASL and other sign languages around the world are actually languages, as first proven by renouned linguistics Dr. William Stokoe and Dr. Ursula Bellugi in 1960.

MSJ: Manually Signed Japanese.

NAD: National Association of the Deaf. Founded in Ohio in 1880, the NAD is the U.S. representative organization in the WFD and has approximately 28,000 members, approximately 24,000 of whom are deaf. The NAD promotes sign language and speech. NAD board membership is limited to deaf persons. See also WFD and Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf.

open captioning: Captioning, or words on a screen similar to subtitles, that cannot be turned on and off, like at movie theaters that offer open captioning, which is printed on the film of the movie and cannot be turned off, unlike open captioning on a television, which can be turned off. Movie theaters in the U.S. are not required to offer open captioned movies under Title II of the ADA. See also closed captioning and reflective captioning.

oralism: A school of thought that encourages deaf people to learn to speak and lip read (see also "speech reading") rather than learn sign language. Proponents of oralism argue that it allows deaf people to interact with the hearing world. Opponents say that oralism is extremely difficult and that many deaf people are incapable of learning it. Oralsim proponents say that sign language "advertises" a person's disability and that the use of sign language makes deaf people not want to learn to speak, while opponents say that sign language is the natural language of deaf people.

parameters of ASL: The characteristics of each sign in ASL that make it unique from all other signs in the language. The parameters are: 1) Hand Shape--how many fingers are extended and how, 2) Position--where the hand(s) are in relation to the body, 3) Movement--the way the hand(s) move, 4) Orientation--the direction that the palm of the hand faces, and 5) Expression--facial expression. Some argue that expression and body language are not a true parameter of the language because some but not all signs have specific facial expressions that differientate them from other signs. One factor that is not addressed by these five parameters is the number of hands used in a sign, since there are some signs that have all five of these parameters identical but differ from other signs only by using one or both hands. The ASL parameters also do not address the existance of homonyms, which are found in all languages.

PSE: Pidgin Sign English or Pidgin Signed English. PSE is somewhat in the middle of the continuum between the conceptual ASL and English. Researchers have noted that a person's signing style changes depending on whom they are conversing with; two Deaf people signing together may use very conceptual sign, whereas when signing to a hearing person, their signing style can tend to become more pidginized towards English. Some hearing people who sign may not know ASL grammar well, but sign great PSE. PSE is also known as contact sign, or a contact language, referring to contact between people who speak different languages and how they use a pidgin to communicate. (A pidgin is a form of communication developed between people who speak different languages. Pidgins are used in many parts of the world, especially among linguistically diverse regions. Pidgins tend to use simplified grammatical structure and often include repetition of words. A pidgin, also known as a contact language, becomes a creole when a later generation learns the pidgin as their first language. English could be said to be a creole of Latin and a number of other languages.)

PSJ: Pidgin Signed Japanese. See also PSE.

real-time captioning: Captioning provided on a computer screen for live speakers. Real-time captioning is sometimes used in such situations as classrooms, where a real-time captioner types out the instructor's lecture as it is delivered. Some deaf people prefer real-time captioning, while others prefer sign language interpreters or cued speech.

receptive skills: How well a person can understand accurately what other people sign. These skills are similar to listening comprehension of spoken languages. Many if not most people tend to be stronger in one or the other rather than being equally strong in both. See also expressive skills.

reflective captioning: Unlike closed captioning, which appears on a screen and can be turned on and off, and unlike open captioning, which appears on a screen and cannot be turned off, reflective captioning is showing the mirrored image of words at the back of a room so that individuals holding mirrors or reflective pieces of plastic can read the words as the watch the screen at the front of the room. Although this is not as good of an accommodation for those requiring captioning as open or closed captioning, it allows certain theater venues to provide captioning without having the captions on the screen. This is used at such places as the Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor. See also closed captioning and open captioning.

residential schools: Schools founded specifically for the education of the deaf. Residential schools are often where deaf individuals are exposed to deaf adults who are fluent in ASL, thus giving them the opportunity to develop their signing skills. Residential schools are also where a great deal of Deaf culture has traditionally been passed down from one generation to the next. Due to mainstreaming, fewer and fewer deaf children are being educated in residential schools. See also LRE and mainstreaming.

Rochester Method: Fingerspelling every word, originally developed in Rochester, New York.

SEE 1: Seeing Essential English. An MCE system that breaks English words down and uses arbitrary signs to represent each part of the word based on their sounds. For example, the word "butterfly" could be signed using the separate signs for "butter" and "fly." This system was developed in 1966 by David Anthony, a deaf teacher at the Michigan School for the Deaf. See also MCE.

SEE 2: Signing Exact English. An MCE system that borrows many signs from ASL. Often, the SEE 2 sign for a word involves the same motion as the ASL sign except one or both hands will be in the shape of the finger spelling letter, which the English word starts with. However, SEE 2 signs show English words litterally; for example, in SEE 2 there is only one sign for "right" whether the word refers to direction, correctness, or privilege (Lane, 270). SEE 2 was developed in 1969 by Gerilee Gustason, a deaf professor at Gallaudet University. See also MCE.

Seeing Essential English: See SEE 1.

sign-supported speech: See simultaneous communication.

Signed English: An MCE system that incorporates inflections for English verbs and articles. This system was developed in 1973 by Harry Bornstein, a hearing professor at Gallaudet University. See also MCE.

Signing Exact English: See SEE 2.

sim-com: See simultaneous communication.

simultaneous communication: Speaking and signing at the same time. Also known as sim-com or sign-supported speech. Many if not most people who are capable of signing and speaking prefer not to sign and speak at the same time because both the sign and speech suffer. Because ASL and English grammar are different, usually when people use sim-com, their signing tends to become more like PSE or SEE 2. However, signers who are capable of signing and speaking use sim-com at times, such as when addressing mixed groups of deaf and hearing people, especially when the hearing people do not know sign language.

soda: spouse of Deaf adult. A term coined by Elaine VanOrman in 2003 who is hearing and whose husband is Deaf. This term could also be used to refer to someone is a sibling of a Deaf adult. See also coda.

speech reading: The technically correct term for the commonly used phrase, "lip reading", since the activity of visually deciphering a person's speech involves observing more than just the lips.

TC: total communication. Using sign language, lip reading, and any other means of communication freely in order to accomplish the goal of communication. Total communication did not always have this definition; originally it meant signing and speaking at the same time, but as that definition does not technically fit the term, speaking and signing at the same time is now called simultaneous communication or sim-com. Some purport that as far as education, total communication does not live up to its concept of using all means of communication available, but rather in practice just becomes sim-com. See also simultaneous communication.

TDD: telecommunications device for the deaf. Same as TTY.

TRS: telecommunications relay service.

TTY: TeleTYpewriter or text telephone. Same as TDD. Of the two terms, TTY is more commonly used among the Deaf community, while the term TDD is used more in government legislation.

VP: video phone.

WFD: World Federation of the Deaf. Recognized and funded in part by the United Nations and the World Health Organization, the WFD was founded in Rome in 1951 and currently has 124 member nations. Only one organization is recognized in the WFD to represent each country. The NAD is the organization that represents the United States in the WFD. WFD board membership is limited to deaf persons.


© 1999 - 2024 F. C. Stamps, M.Ed.