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American Sign Language

A language of United States

ISO 639-3ase

Population  No accurate census figures available that distinguish language use from audiological deafness. Reportedly third largest language in USA (1993 Honolulu Advertiser); has 100,000 to 500,000 primary users (VanCleve 1986) out of nearly 2,000,000 profoundly deaf persons in the USA (1988), Below 1% of USA population.
Region  Also in Barbados, Benin, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Canada, Central African Republic, Chad, China, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Jamaica, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritania, Nigeria, Philippines, Singapore, Togo, Zimbabwe.
Alternate names   ASL
Dialects  Black American Sign Language, Tactile ASL (TASL). Some lexical variation across the United States and much of Canada, but intelligibility is high among all dialects called ASL. Black American Sign Language developed in schools for African-American Deaf people due to segregation in the southern U.S. It contains some distinctive vocabulary and grammatical structure. Tactile ASL (TASL) is used throughout the United States by and with deaf-blind people, especially those with Usher’s Syndrome, concentrations of which are found in Louisiana and Seattle. TASL uses ASL vocabulary and grammar, except (1) the deaf-blind person receives signs through touch by feeling signs in the palms, and (2) minor syntactic modifications to compensate for the deaf-blind person’s lack of access to the signer’s facial expressions. Some Deaf-blind people have learned Braille for reading English. Dialects or closely-related languages derived from ASL, are used in many other countries. Lexical similarity: 57% between modern ASL and French Sign Language (LSF) [fsl] on a comparison of 872 signs. Although the 2 are related, ASL has undergone substantial creolization (Woodward 1975, 1976).
Classification  Deaf sign language
Language use  Used natively by many hearing children of deaf parents, and as L2 by many other hearing people. Interpreters required for many legal and civic situations. Lingua franca of the deaf world, used widely as L2. Reportedly is a primary language in Barbados, Benin, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, China (Hong Kong), Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Jamaica, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritania, Nigeria, Philippines, Singapore, Togo, and Zimbabwe.
Language development  Literacy measures are almost always based on English rather than ASL. Deaf people’s English varies from highly literate to illiterate, but the average deaf student graduates from high school with a 3rd or 4th grade reading level. TV. Videos. Dictionary. Grammar. NT: 2005.
Writing system  SignFont Notation, limited use. SignWriting, limited use. Stokoe Notation, limited use.
Comments  ASL is different from ‘Signed English’, which refers to a range of signing registers that reflect some influence from English. At the extreme end are Signing Exact English (SEE) and Seeing Essential English (SEE2), artificially-constructed systems that attempt to match English word and morpheme order exactly. English-influenced signing that does not follow English grammar exactly is generally called ‘contact signing’ or ‘Pidgin Signed English’. Deaf schools and interpreters in mainstream settings may use any one of these registers. SVO, topic comment structures; adjectives, numerals, genitives, question word initial or final, relative clause after noun head.

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Language name   American Sign Language
Region  English-speaking areas of Canada.
Alternate names  ASL, Ameslan
Language use  Sign language interpreters required for deaf in court. Used for deaf college students, important public functions, job training, social service programs. Sign language instruction for parents of deaf children, classes for hearing people, organization for sign language teachers, committee on national sign language.