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CLLS: Signs Through History by Dr. Ted Supalla

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Dr. Ted Supalla will present new historical work on the structure of Early ASL which suggests strongly that this earlier form of the language was highly sequential, with separate words strung in phrasal units. These phrases can be seen as the historical antecedents of many modern complex and simultaneously organized words. The rich & complex inflectional and derivational morphology we find in modern ASL appeared as sequential (analytic) constructions in Early ASL. This would suggest that sign languages do not always contain complex simultaneous (nonconcatenative) morphology from the start - and that such morphology as found in modern ASL does not exist solely because of modality or iconicity.

These research findings are based on the NAD film data from 3 'cohort generations' of signers in the period from 1910-1920. Supalla will also demonstrate how such hypotheses about historical change in ASL can be significantly enhanced by carefully designed field elicitation work with living native signers.

Hosted by the Graduate School and the Department of ASL and Deaf Studies, the CLLS features discussions involving key issues in deaf communities. CLLS events are open to the entire Gallaudet community. (The series takes the place of the Graduate School's former Culture and Language Colloquium,) April 8

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