Before the early eighteenth century, forms of communication among the deaf were often not regarded as authentic language. Accepted wisdom held either that the deaf were making simple gestures to communicate basic needs and ideas, or, in a more generous view, that sign language was a physical method of expressing the words and syntax of spoken language.
Once it was recognized, however, that forms of signing constituted valid, though non-oral, systems of language, sign systems were standardized and disseminated in educational programs for the deaf.
American Sign Language was one of the first standardized sets of signs to develop in response to this new understanding of communication among the deaf. ASL had its beginnings in 1817 when Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, an American minister, recruited Frenchman Laurent Clerc to co-found what is now the American School for the Deaf in Hartford, Connecticut. Clerc had been an instructor at the premiere educational institution for the deaf in France, where a standardized system of signs had been in use in for nearly a century. The language Clerc developed for the school was based heavily on the French Sign Language with which he, being deaf, routinely communicated. At the school, French Sign Language mingled with various and idiosyncratic “home signs” brought into the classroom by students from Martha’s Vineyard, an island off Massachusetts where there were an unusually large number of deaf children. Within only a few years, the mixture of French Sign Language with Home Sign had reached equilibrium and was taught in other institutions for the deaf as American Sign Language. Today, though it continues to be spontaneously adjusted to suit local needs, ASL is the third most common language in the United States, the dominant sign language of North America, and a popular form of inter-dialect communication in parts of Africa.
1. The author likely relates the history of American Sign Language in order to
A) Entertain the reader with historical facts.
B) Advocate greater flexibility in the development of sign languages.
C) Compare two perspectives on types of communication used by the deaf.
D) Provide a historical example of a sign language that was first standardized then disseminated.
E) Explore cooperation among nations in the development of languages for the deaf.
2. In the bolded lines the author most likely says that the second traditional understanding of sign language as a physical method of expressing the words and syntax of spoken language was a more generous view because
A) It considers deaf people incapable of using words and syntax in ways that imitate spoken language.
B) It was the more commonly held view among people who gave the most money to the deaf.
C) This position, though not indisputable, is a paraphrase of the point the author is making in the rest of the passage.
D) This perspective, though not completely accurate, was nearer the understanding that sign language is a valid system of language.
E) This viewpoint is the same as that eventually espoused by Gallaudet and Clerc.
3. Based on information in the passage, the author of the passage would most likely agree with which of the following?
A) Gallaudet would have been unable to found a school for the deaf without Clerc’s assistance.
B) French Sign Language and Home Sign were equally important contributions to the development of American Sign Language.
C) American Sign Language eventually surpassed the usefulness and flexibility of French Sign Language.
D) Centuries of misunderstood methods of communication among the deaf made the development of standardized sign languages inevitable.
E) The deaf living on Martha’s Vineyard would not have formed their own standardized system of signs if they had not been introduced to French Sign Language.
4. It can be inferred from the passage that American Sign Language borrowed liberally from French Sign Language for which of the following reasons?
A) Many students at the school could read and write French, making the transition to French Sign Language simple.
B) French Sign Language was held by educators of the deaf in France to be almost flawless.
C) French Sign Language was a standardized system of signs already familiar to one of the founders of the school.
D) French Sign Language was equally as expressive as the “home sign” languages that students from Martha’s Vineyard brought to the school.
E) The founders of the school believed French Sign Language to be superior to British Sign Language.
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