American Sign Language (ASL)

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

ASL was first identified in 1960 by William Stokoe, a Hearing professor at Gallaudet University. He studied communication within all-Deaf families and proved that ASL is a genuine language performed primarily with large arm movements and gestures that convey concepts or general ideas but not individual words. In his writings, Stokoe asserted that the majority in the Deaf community do not use ASL but sign English sentences using traditional signs primarily made with one hand and fingerspelling. Nevertheless, for years there has been an ongoing "ASL ONLY" movement. You've probably noticed that interpreters on TV and films strictly use ASL.

The "ASL ONLY" Deaf kids today are mainstreamed in public schools where teachers require students to read and write English in their classes. So, by the time they graduate from high school, they are firmly rooted in thinking and signing in English but use ASL to be identified with, and accepted by, the Deaf community. .

Currently, an "ASL ONLY" signer must sign in English when using a cell phone. The caller holds the phone in one hand and signs into the phone with the other hand to a Deaf friend. Note that both individuals are now using the variety of signing that they long have campaigned against! Technology has forced the adaptation. What a paradox!