from Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/daveynin/7974569506/
I always find it nearly hilarious that folks presume to think that American Sign Language is a form of English.
My first thought would be...if so, why is it that hearing people have a hard time understanding why our 'hands fly around'. Why do not hearing people have a easy time communicating with deaf people if 'ASL is a form of English'?
ASL is a visual-spatial language. Our facial expressions is equivalent to the tone of a hearing person's voice. Our grammatical structure is similar to French Sign Language in it's origin. I mentioned in the previous post that ASL has more than one American language origin.
This is what a sentence sounds like in English, then ASL.
"What is your name?"
YOUR NAME WHAT?
As ASL is not a written language (sharing written English with Americans, more on that a bit), we do not know what grammatical features fit into ASL. You can't really write the tone of the written English either. You could add an exclamation mark but what is the tone with that particular ending? Surprised or angry?
Let's go to another sentence example:
"The cat ran up the tree."
CAT-here TREE-here (index finger used to point to specific locations) CAT-RAN-TO CL-5-TREE TREE-RAN-UP BRANCH SIT-ON (there are certain facial expressions (known as non-manual markers (or signals)) missing from this sentence. It is much easier to show it to someone than to write it down).
This is what makes ASL different from English. We may share a written language; we do not share the same sign/spoken language. This is why the English signed systems failed so many deaf children, this is because the signed systems betray ASL in the visual-spatial relationship that ASL along with native/natural signed languages employ.
ASL is truly a language of its own. William Stokoe, who didn't know much sign language when he was hired to teach English at Gallaudet University back in the 1950's-1960's, was fascinated with ASL. His discussions and thinking processes included native ASL users and eventually disclosed that ASL is a language. Ever since that time, ASL has reclaimed its rightful place in the world, as a natural American language and as a world language offered everywhere.
Let me give you a few more features of ASL:
In terms of writing; there are two systems in work for writing ASL. One is computerized and the other is freewrite (handwriting).
The computerized system is called SignWrite (http://www.signwriting.org/) and the freewrite system is called si5s (http://www.si5s.org/). Some day I will learn to write in ASL and I can't wait!
If you have further questions about the reason why ASL is not a form of English, please do comment. Thank you.
To Be Whole
Currently I am an ASL teacher at a local college and at an high school. I received my Masters in Sign Language Education from Gallaudet University. At home, I am an activist within the community, Northwest Indiana. My son is in first grade and my daughter goes to E.C.L.I.P.S.E. ASL Preschool. Change begins with you and change is effective with a team.