Wed. Jan 26th, 2022

On Tuesday, Oct. 17 in the Sykes Student Union Theatre from 11 to 12:15 p.m. West Chester University’s Deaf studies program will be hosting an event available to the public. This event is all about the need for American Deaf children with cochlear implants to be taught American Sign Language (ASL). Leading this discussion will be Swarthmore College Professor of Linguistics Donna Jo Napoli. She graduated Harvard University with a degree in General & Romance Linguistics in 1973. Since then, she has taught linguistics-related topics for the past few decades. Schools she previously taught at include the University of Michigan, Georgetown, North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Smith College. One of her primary focuses is ASL linguistics and the necessary language acquisition and teaching practices for Deaf children.

Napoli notes on her Swarthmore page that her “focus is on modality effects, including how iconicity is pertinent to word/sign order and how the biomechanics of language articulation affects phonology and the lexicon and what light that can shed on diachronic change.”

Her work goes further than analysis. Napoli is also a part of a team of professionals that strive to protect Deaf children’s right to language. Her Swarthmore page notes that she, “publish[es] regularly in medical journals,” and is, “engaged in developing materials to promote shared reading between Deaf children and their parents.”

The Deaf studies department offers a Deaf studies minor to all students. This minor gives students the option to select one of three tracks: language, diversity or culture. Consisting of 18 credits, students can select classes such as ASL 1-4, Deaf culture perspectives, linguistics of ASL, Deaf history, ASL literature and more. Almost all courses fall under the kinesiology department.

The deaf studies department is headed by Dr. Majorie “Kat” Ellis. She can be reached at The ASL club meets on Mondays at 8:15 p.m. in Sykes 255. The ASL club welcomes students experienced in ASL as well as those who have never been exposed to it to visit their meetings and learn. This organization’s president is Lindsey Iacobelli who can be reached at Napoli can be reached at

Halle Nelson is a fourth-year student majoring in communication studies with minors in English literature and deaf studies. She can be reached at

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