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What is ASL?

Lorrie Wilson
11/5/2007

What is ASL?

ASL stands for American Sign Language and it is considered a language. It is not signs for the English language but a foreign language. It isnít a universal language; itís the same as other countries speaking different languages. Sign language is a language for the deaf people. ASL is the fourth most used language in the United States only behind English, Spanish and Italian (silentwordministries.org). ASL is a visual language meaning that it is not expressed through sound but rather through combining hand shapes through movement of hands, arms and facial expressions. Facial expression is extremely important in signing (nidcd.nih.gov).

The beginning of ASL is somewhat obscure though many say that ASL came mostly from FSL (French Sign Language). In 1815 an American by the name of Thomas Gallaudet went to Europe hoping to learn how to teach deaf children to sign. It is in 1815 that Gallaudet met Laurent Clerc a famous pupil in Paris. In 1817 Gallaudet convinced Clerc to come back to America with him. It was in this year that Gallaudet and Clerc founded the Connecticut Asylum for the Education and Instruction of Deaf and Dumb Persons in West Hartford, Connecticut. This school was the first public American school for the deaf.

 The website www.info.com states that this made Clerc the first Deaf teacher in America. This is why at least 60% of ASL signs come from OFSL which is Old French Sign Language (aslinfo.com). The National Deaf-Mute College is now known as Gallaudet University which was founded by Gallaudetís son Edward who was also fluent in ASL.

William Stokoe a professor of English was hired at Gallaudet University in 1955. Stokoe helped establish that sign language was indeed a language. In 1965 he published "The Dictionary of American Sign Language" (aslinfo.com).

Many things have changed for the Deaf and hard of hearing since the 1800ís. Deaf people are no longer looked down upon or held back from being all that they can be. Who knows maybe someday the president of the United States will even be a Deaf person. The sky is the limit for what a Deaf person can do.

Works Cited

"About ASL." <http://www.aslinfo.com/aboutasl.cfm>

Camp, Ted, ed. "History of Sign Language." Silent Word Ministries. <http://www.silentwordministries.org/ministry/history.htm>

"What is American Sign Language." <http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/hearing/asl.asp>
 


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