American Sign Language Essay

1811 words - 7 pages

Sign language has played an important part throughout history; it has removed the barrier between those who can hear and those who are deaf. Sign language is a form of communication that does not rely on verbal speech. It uses visual-spatial medium to express communication (Stewart & Akamatsu, 236). Hands, fingers, body, and facial features are used to visually transmit linguistic information. The signs are formed by hands, which convey symbols that are similar to spoken words and phrases. These facial and body movements serve as articulations and modifiers of speech. Through different body movements the deaf are able to communicate with each other and find a common way to connect in a non-vocal way.
The historical account of American Sign Language is traced to the early nineteenth century. The structure and lexicon of American Sign Language (ASL) were derived from French Sign Language (FSL) during the early 1800’s (237). Evidence has proven that the first established American school for the deaf was in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1817. The founders of the particular institution were Thomas Gallaudet and Laurent Clerc. They were both educated in the use of French Sign Language prior to the establishment of their institution in America. They originally used French Sign Language in their institution, which influenced the signing behavior of many of their deaf students. Since then, it has been a calculated fact that sixty percent of signs in American Sign Language derived from French Sign Language. The other forty percent of signs in ASL were created by the deaf community. After a century, the format of ASL became recognized as a legitimate language. In turn, there have been many misconceptions throughout the years of how American Sign Language was considered to be a broken form of English.
The structure of American Sign Language is divided into three categories: morphology, phonology, and semiology. The subcategories of American Sign Language were introduced by a man named Trager, who created the “division of linguistics” in 1953 (Stokoe 368). The phonology studies underline the sound pattern of words. The morphology studies focus on the actual structure of words. Moreover, semiology is the study of word and sentence meaning. The first modern investigation of the ASL structure began in 1955 with an article written by Trager and Smith, titled Outline of English Structure, which taught manual signs and vocabulary to deaf college students. Their article highlights the use of signs to convey non-verbal word meaning. The principles of ASL are an important foundation for general sign language. The structure of ASL comes together to form a language for the deaf community.
The gestures of sign language comprise of different movements. It involves movements of the hands, arms, body, and facial expression, which create a way of communicating. Although it is a form of speaking in the deaf community, the visible movement of the body is not the...

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