American Sign Language (ASL) Information

American Sign Language (or ASL, Ameslan) is the dominant sign language of the Deaf Americans (which include the Deaf communities in the United States, in the English-speaking parts of Canada, and in some regions of Mexico[citation needed]). Although the United Kingdom and the United States share English as a spoken and written language, British Sign Language (BSL) is quite different from ASL, and the two sign languages are not mutually intelligible.

In the United States, as elsewhere in the world, hearing families with deaf children often employ ad-hoc home sign, an idiosyncratic set of hand gestures, for simple communications. Today though, ASL classes are offered in many secondary and postsecondary schools. ASL is a language distinct from spoken English; while it borrows many elements of English (e.g., spelled words, "initialized" signs using the first letter of English words, and direct translations of English idioms,it nonetheless possesses its own syntax and grammar and supports its own culture. The origin of modern ASL is ultimately tied to the confluence of many events and circumstances. These include historical attempts at deaf education; the unique situation present on a small island in Massachusetts, Martha's Vineyard where a large percentage of the population was deaf; the attempts of a father named Dr. Mason Cogswell to enlist a local minister, Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, to help educate his deaf daughter, Alice Cogswell; and the ingenuity and genius of people (in this case deaf people) for language itself.

Wikipedia, American Sign Language (ASL), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Sign_Language (as of Apr 7, 2010)

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