What Is American Sign Language?

American Sign Language is a really important tool for people that have hearing impairments, and for anybody that is looking to expand their ability to interact with others. This is why it is important to be aware of American Sign Language and spread awareness of it to others that are looking to learn. 

Without American Sign Language, many would find it extremely difficult to communicate, and whether you are a deaf individual, or you want to be able to communicate with those that are deaf, it is really beneficial to find out more about this language.

If you are looking to find out more about American Sign Language, then you have come to the right place. We are going to tell you everything that you need to know about American Sign Language, including what it is, how it is learned, and why it is so important. Just keep reading to find out more.

What is American Sign Language?

For those that don’t already know, American Sign Language is a complete and natural language that has the same linguistic properties as spoken languages. However, it has grammar that differs from English, and ASL is expressed by movements of the hands and face. It is the primary language of many North Americans who are deaf and hard of hearing. It is also used by lots of hearing people too.

American Sign Language is a visual language, rather than a spoken language. When it comes to signing, the brain will process linguistic information through the eyes. The shape, placement, and movement of the hands, as well as facial expressions and body movements, will all play an important part in conveying information to someone.

Is Sign Language Universal?

No, sign language is not a universal language, and each country will have its own version of sign language. It is similar to the way in which different regions will have their own dialects, like many languages that are spoken across the world. Just like any spoken language, American Sign Language is a language with its own unique rules of grammar and syntax. It is also a living language that is growing and changing over time.

ASL is predominantly used in the United State and in many different parts of Canada, and it is accepted by many high schools, colleges, and universities. There is no universal sign language as different sign languages are used in different countries.nAnother example of a different type of sign language is British Sign Language, and those that know American Sign Language may not necessarily understand British Sign Language.

Where Does American Sign Language Come From?

There is no one person or organization that created American Sign Language, and the exact origins of the language are unclear. However, some people would suggest that it originated more than 200 years ago through the intermixing of local sign languages and French Sign Language.

Today, American Sign Language includes some elements of LSF as well as the original local sign languages. Over time, these have merged and changed into a complex and mature language, and both modern LSF and ASL are distinct languages. Even though they still contain some similar signs, they can no longer both be understood by each other’s users.

Comparing American Sign Language to Spoken Language

American Sign Language is a language that is completely separate and different from the standard English spoken language. It contains all of the fundamental features of language, with rules for things like pronunciation, word formation, and word order.

It also has its own ways of signalling different functions. For example, an English speaker may raise the pitch of their voice when forming a question, but someone that is speaking sign language would raise their eyebrows, widen their eyes, or tilt their bodies forward instead.

Just like with other languages, there are specific ways of expressing ideas in American Sign Language. As well as the individual differences in expression, ASL has regional accents and dialects, just like certain English words may be spoken differently in different parts of the country. ASL has regional variations in the rhythm of signing, pronunciation, slang, and signs used.

Other sociological factors like age and gender can also influence American Sign Language usage and contribute to its variety, just like with spoken language. Fingerspelling is also a part of ASL, and it can be used to spell out English words. In the fingerspelled alphabet, each letter would correspond to a distinct handshape. It can often be used for proper names or to indicate the English word for something.

How Do Most Children Learn American Sign Language?

A deaf child that is born to parents that are deaf and already use ASL will pick it up as naturally as a hearing child would pick up a spoken language from their parents. However, a deaf child that has hearing parents with no previous experience with ASL would pick up the language differently.

Interestingly 9 out of 10 children that are born deaf will have hearing parents, and some of these parents will choose to introduce sign language to their deaf children. Most of the time, the parents will learn sign language along with their children so they can communicate with them.

It is actually really important for parents to expose a deaf or hard of hearing child to language as soon as possible. The sooner they learn it, the easier it will be to pick up over time, and the better their language, cognitive, and social development will be. Research even suggests that the first few years of life are the most essential to a child’s development of language skills, even in the first few months.

Thankfully, due to things like screening programs in almost all hospitals in the United States, newborn babies can be tested for hearing before they leave the hospital. If a baby is found to have hearing loss, then the parents are able to learn about it early on and find out what options are available to them.