Contact Variety Sign: Understanding the significance of a “third system”

In 1989 Clayton Valli and Ceil Lucas published groundbreaking linguistic research in their volume Language Contact in the American Deaf Community, a book which has tremendous implications for interpreters. This workshop explores their research findings, breaks it down into easily understandable pieces, and explores what this shift in perspective means for interpreters.

Valli and Lucas discovered that James Woodward’s original description of the language contact between ASL and English as a pidgin was not accurate and the hypothesis of a Pidgin Sign English or PSE was not supported in their research. Because of their findings, they reject the label of PSE as a misnomer and propose an alternate description of the contact between ASL and English as Contact Variety Sign or CVS. Where Woodward had described ASL and English existing on a continuum, Valli and Lucas describe a rule-governed third system.

In the ensuing years since this original research was published, the field of linguistics has largely embraced this description, endorsing these findings of a third system. Despite this profound shift, the label PSE has persisted in the interpreting community. If interpreters continue to conceptualize ASL and English as existing on a continuum that allows an infinite number of mixing of features, they can never gain fluency in CVS. Thus, the term PSE is not only out-dated, it leads us to inaccurate work.

If interpreters are expected to use this rule-governed system of CVS accurately, they need the opportunity to learn the rules that govern this system. This workshop begins the journey of learning the rules that make CVS work.

Length of Activity: One day workshop

Intended Audience: Working sign language interpreters. This workshop is also open to certified Deaf interpreters (CDIs ), Deaf people who work as Deaf interpreters or are practicing to become Deaf interpreters, ASL instructors, ASL students and Deaf people

Language of Presentation: If Deaf people are in attendance the preferred language is ASL. Voice interpretation will not be provided.

Next Workshop: January 15, 2011: Contact Variety Sign: Understanding the significance of a “third system” South Puget Sound Community College|9 am- 3:30 pm with a half hour brown bag lunch|$40  |