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Course Descriptions

Program in American Sign Language

University of Virginia
P.O. Box 400808
Charlottesville, VA 22902-4808
(434) 924-6739 Fax: (434) 924-1478

Overview American Sign Language (ASL) is the primary language of many Deaf people in the United States and Canada. Linguists recognize ASL as a fully-developed human language with its own lexicon, syntax, and morphological processes. ASL lies at the heart of a unique culture. Deaf people who sign form a tightly-knit community with distinct social norms, values, and traditions. They have developed a growing body of literature, including ASL poetry, stories, and plays, many of which are now available on video or dvd. Currently, the American Sign Language Program offers a four-semester sequence in ASL from the beginning through the intermediate level. We have recently expanded our offerings to include more sections and occasional advanced clases. Due to limited space and funding, we can only accept about 80 students per semester.

Faculty The American Sign Language Program consists of one full-time faculty member and several part-time faculty, who together offer expertise in a wide range of areas: Deaf history and culture; ASL linguistics; ASL poetry, storytelling, and folklore; the local, national, and international Deaf communities; Deaf advocacy and legal rights; sign language interpreting; and so forth. In addition, the program regularly invites nationally-recognized scholars and performers to visit the University through the Annual ASL/Deaf Culture Lecture Series.

Students Students from across the University find ASL classes a valuable complement to their programs of study. While the majority of ASL students come from the College of Arts and Sciences, students majoring in fields such as education, audiology, and speech-language pathology also frequently enroll.

Placement Students with prior ASL experience should contact the ASL Program before classes begin. We will arrange a diagnostic interview to ensure placement in the correct ASL course.

Special Resources Through the Annual ASL/Deaf Culture Lecture Series, each year prominent Deaf people come to campus to share their language, culture, and worldview. These events are open to the general public and frequently draw Deaf people from all over the state. Other resources include local sign lunches and dinners; a growing collection of American Sign Language videotapes in the Robertson Media Center in Clemons Library; language laboratory videos, which help students develop their receptive abilities; and the Arts and Sciences Media Center in Cabell Hall, which has video equipment that students use to practice expressive skills. In addition, a student organization called DEAFS sponsors Deaf-related events for interested undergraduates.

Major Since we offer only a limited sequence of courses, no major or minor in ASL is currently available at the University.

Language Requirement Students who successfully complete ASL 202 may use ASL for their foreign language requirement. Classes must be taken in sequence; once they are placed, students cannot "jump" from one level to the next.

Additional Information For more information, consult the program website or contact Christopher Krentz, Director of the ASL Program, at ck9m@Virginia.edu.

Course Descriptions


ASL 101, 102 - (4) (Y)
Elementary American Sign Language

Prerequisite: for 102, ASL 101 or successful completion of placement exam.
Introduces receptive and expressive American Sign Language skills, including basic vocabulary, sentence structure, classifiers, use of space, non-manual type indicators, and fingerspelling. Examines signing deaf people as a linguistic/cultural minority.

ASL 201, 202 - (3) (Y)
Intermediate American Sign Language

Prerequisite: for 201, ASL 102 or successful completion of placement exam; for 202, ASL 201 or successful completion of placement exam.
Continues training in American Sign Language, with focus on more complex sentence types, signs, and idioms. Considers ASL literary forms such as poetry, theater, and storytelling, as well as deaf history and other related topics.

ASL 301 - (3) (SI)
Conversational ASL

Prerequisite: ASL202 or successful completion of placement interview.
Continues language and cultural instruction with emphasis on everyday conversation. Topics include common idioms and slang, explaining rules, discussing finances and major decisions, and storytelling techniques such as role-shifting and narrative structure. Students will be required to interact with deaf signers.

ASL 355 - (3) (SI)
Comparative Linguistics: ASL and English

Prerequisite: None, but ASL 101 is recommended.
Describes spoken English and ASL on five levels: phonological, morphological, lexical, syntactic, and discourse. Compares and contrasts the two languages on all five levels using real-world examples. Describes the major linguistic components and processes of English and ASL. Introduces basic theories regarding ASL structure.

ASL 475 - (3) (SI)
Topics in Deaf Studies

Examines such topics as American deaf history; ASL linguistics; deaf education; cultural versus pathological views of deaf people; controversies over efforts to eliminate sign language and cure deafness; ASL poetry and storytelling; deafness in mainstream literature, film, and drama; deafness and other minority identities; and the international deaf community.

ASL 481 - (3) (SI)
Deafness in Literature and Film

Studies representations of deaf people in literature and film over the last three centuries. Takes a contrapuntal approach, juxtaposing canonical literature and mainstream films with works (in either English or American Sign Language) by relatively unknown deaf artists.

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