And if not, is there a term, accepted by both the Deaf and linguistic communities, that includes both spoken and signed language, in contrast to written language?
Reputable linguistic sources, including common introductory textbooks (Language Files, for example), frequently make the distinction between writing and speech, or written and spoken language, rarely mentioning sign explicitly in that discussion. However, the same sources often distinguish between spoken and signed language. It is my understanding that signed languages can also be described in terms of articulators and phonemes, but introductions to phonetics and phonology usually concentrate on "speech sounds." My students have found this confusing at best, and dismissive of the Deaf community and signed languages at worst.
As an example, the Wikipedia entry for "spoken language" expresses this ambiguity:
The term "spoken language" is sometimes used to mean only vocal languages, especially by linguists, making all three terms synonyms by excluding sign languages. Others refer to sign language as "spoken", especially in contrast to written transcriptions of signs."
And the Talk page for the same article expresses the confusion this can generate:
The present version of the article seems to have a POV in discounting the language of deaf people: the phrase "Modern linguistics regards the spoken language as the natural or the primary medium of human language for some obvious reasons" is particularly strange and I will delete it. --Mathew5000 20:16, 26 March 2007 (UTC)
I think they meant spoken as opposed to written, not oral as opposed to sign. It's now clear that that is what the stub is about. — kwami (talk) 04:33, 1 June 2012 (UTC)
I am not a phonetician or ASL scholar, but I do often teach introductory linguistics courses. To me, a term for performed language seems necessary to avoid excluding sign in discussions of non-written language; for example, when we say that "written conventions generally follow spoken language, not the other way around," it is unclear whether this statement includes or excludes non-vocal language production. If such a term already exists, it would be very helpful if authors of commonly used linguistic resources could make the distinction clear. At the very least, I'd like to know what terminology I can use in my classes that accurately represents this contrast and respects the Deaf community.
Note: while tagging this article, I noticed that the tag "spoken-language" is described:
A modality of language, contrasted with written language, whistled language, or sign language.