First of all, let’s discuss what the definition of language is. Human beings communicate and share information through language. All languages are based on specific rules that the users of that language know and follow. Communication of thoughts and feelings through a system of arbitrary signals, such as voice, sounds , gestures, or written symbols is a definition of language by an online dictionary. Language is a system of symbols that are organized and used systematically. ASL is a language. As defined in our textbooks, ASL is a natural language used by members of the North American Deaf community. Its’ grammar and syntax are clearly different from any other form of oral language, even including English. This may be surprising to some people. In ASL, handshape, movement, and other grammatical features combine to form signs and sentences .This is different from English, where gestures are usually only used for emphasis while speaking. ASL has features unique to it just as other languages do, with its symbols, broken down into smaller parts. In English these contrastive units are sounds. In ASL this is the study of how signs are structured and organized using the five basic parts of ASL, or the parameters, of the language. These five parameters are- handshape, movement, location, palm orientation, and last but definitely not least, non-manual markers. When signing in ASL, it can all come down to one parameter that is different, and this difference changes the meaning of the sign. ASL must have the use of NMM. Without these, used for emphasis, emotion, etc. the words signed and the meaning of the sentence is changed and not correct. In describing the meaning of ASL, it helps me to realize what I will say to others when asked. I most often get asked questions such as, “Well even if you just know the basics, isn’t this enough to say you know ASL? “, or “ Why would you need to study ASL so much , isn’t it pretty much just like English?” WOW !!! OH how I am learning quickly to say to others that don’t know the language, NO!! ASL is in more ways its own language and more not like English. It is unique to itself. It is artistic in the way that a story has to be “told”, the big picture has to be “painted” It’s a visual language. And most definitely, I do NOT know ASL fluently if I just know the “basics” as some may falsely assume. ASL is a very complex and precise language.
By Wendi Girau
Spread the Sign
Blogger: Monica Hood
I created Deaf Insight to help spread deaf awareness. It is a place for everyone to come together to help share with the world! In this blog, I discuss my thoughts about many things. I hope you all enjoy it!