Are Some American Sign Language (ASL) Lexical Signs Thousands of Years Old?

Dr. Keith M Cagle
Associate Professor, Department of Interpretation
Gallaudet University
Washington, DC

Before the emergence of French Sign Language (LSF) in the 18th century and American Sign Language in the 19th century, Cistercian Sign Language (CSL) had been extensively used by monks for centuries in Europe.

In this lecture, Dr Cagle explores the possible roots of ASL prior to LSF. For this study, French to Engish translactions were compared with signs from Cistercian Sign Language, French Sign Language and American Sign Language, and many simiarities between CSL and early LSF, with some signs identical. There were also connections between CSL, LSF and ASL indicating lexicql borrowing from CSL was a factor in the development of LSF and ASL.

Based on Cagle’s dissertation, “Exploring the Ancestral Roots of American Sifgn Language: Lexical Borrowing from Cistercian Sign Language and French Sign Language,” this lecture provides a perspective on how translation functinoed in multi-lingual comparitive works.

Lecturer Bio:
Dr. Keith M. Cagle is currently Associate Professor in the Department of Interpretation at Gallaudet University. He received his Ph.D. in Educational Linguistics from the University of New Mexico.

Since 1986, he has taught ASL and interpreting courses at various colleges and universities. For five years, he served as chair of the Interpreter Education program at Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC) in Charlotte, North Carolina and led curriculum development for related courses for four interpreting programs in North Carolina. He developed curriculum at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID), Gardner-Webb University, Central Piedmont Community College, and the University of Northern Colorado. He has served as president, vice-president, and secretary-treasurer of the American Sign Language Teachers Association (ASLTA) and, since 1990, has been chair of Certification and Evaluation. He currently serves as a Commissioner on the Commission on Collegiate Interpreter Education (CCIE). He provides trainings on a variety of topics across the U.S. and internationally.

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