American Sign Language

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American Sign Language
Langue des Signes Américaine (in the Canadian province of Québec)
American Sign Language ASL.svg
Native toUnited States, Canada
RegionEnglish-speaking North America
Native speakers
250,000–500,000 in the United States (1972)[1]:26
L2 users: Used as L2 by many hearing people and by Hawaii Sign Language speakers.
French Sign-based (possibly a creole with Martha's Vineyard Sign Language)
  • American Sign Language
None are widely accepted
si5s (ASLwrite), ASL-phabet, Stokoe notation, SignWriting
Official status
Official language in
Recognised minority
language in
Ontario only in domains of: legislation, education and judiciary proceedings.[2]
40 US states recognize ASL to varying degrees, from a foreign language for school credits to the official language of that state's deaf population.[3]
Language codes
ISO 639-3ase
Glottologasli1244  ASL family
amer1248  ASL proper
ASL map (world).png
  Areas where ASL or a dialect/derivative thereof is the national sign language
  Areas where ASL is in significant use alongside another sign language

American Sign Language (old names: Amslan, Ameslan ) is the most popular sign language for the Deaf in the United States, in the English-speaking parts of Canada, and in parts of Mexico. Although the United Kingdom and the United States share English as a spoken and written language, British Sign Language (BSL) is different from American Sign Language. ASL actually comes from French Sign Language, as Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet went to England for help learning sign language to teach to his deaf neighbors. He could not find anyone willing to teach him the British Sign Language, but did find some French people who were willing to help, he convinced one of them to travel back to the United States with him to set up the first deaf school in the U.S.[4]

ASL is also used (sometimes with other sign languages) in the Philippines, Singapore, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Côte d'Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Chad, Gabon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, Mauritania, Kenya, Madagascar, and Zimbabwe. Like other sign languages, its grammar is different from any spoken language.

ASL includes fingerspelling. Fingerspelling is a way to show the written letter. ASL uses one hand to show the English alphabet, although there are ways to show alphabets from other languages. Names of people and places can be fingerspelled. Fingerspelling is also used for words that have no sign, or for when people are confused about what a used sign means.

Statistics[change | change source]

Counting the number of ASL speakers is difficult because ASL users have never been counted by the American census.[5] ASL use in the general American population has not been directly measured. The ultimate source for current estimates of the number of ASL users in the United States is a report for the National Census of the Deaf Population (NCDP) by Schein and Delk (1974).[5] Based on a 1972 survey of the NCDP, Schein and Delk provided estimates consistent with a signing population between 250,000 and 500,000. The survey did not distinguish between ASL and other forms of signing.

Incorrect figures are sometimes cited for the population of ASL speakers in the United States based on misunderstandings of statistics.[5] Demographics of the deaf population have been confused with those of ASL use. This accounts for cited estimations which are greater than 500,000. Such mistaken estimations can reach as high as 15,000,000.[5]

ASL is sometimes incorrectly cited as the third- or fourth-most-spoken language in the United States.[5] These figures misquote Schein and Delk (1974), who said ASL speakers constituted the third-largest population requiring an interpreter in court.[5]

References[change | change source]

  1. Mitchell et al. (2006)
  2. Province of Ontario (2007). "Bill 213: An Act to recognize sign language as an official language in Ontario". Archived from the original on 2018-12-24. Retrieved 2018-08-15.
  3. Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center. "States that Recognize American Sign Language as a Foreign Language" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 April 2015. Retrieved 23 July 2015.
  4. "ASL history". ASL University. Retrieved 21 March 2013.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 Mitchell, Ross et al 2006. How many people use ASL in the United States?: Why estimates need updating. Sign Language Studies 6 (3). [1]

Bibliography[change | change source]

Other websites[change | change source]