Baby sign language is a way to teach infants how to communicate using hand gestures. Hand gestures are easier for a baby than controlling their vocal chords. Using sign language enables your baby to start communicating about six months earlier than if you were just relying on speech. Being able to sign accelerates your baby’s progress to words as well. Studies show that signing babies develop larger speaking vocabularies than their non-signing counterparts.
There is an ASL sign for each letter of the alphabet. Fingerspelling, using the signed alphabet to spell words, is quite common. Fingerspelling is used to: Spell people's names or other proper nouns, such as places or organization names that do not have a designated ASL sign; Spell words from spoken language that don't have a designated sign, such as slang or profession-specific jargon; Spell words that you do not know the ASL sign for; Some people prefer to fingerspell words that have ASL signs, there is nothing wrong with that, fingerspelling can be used as often as one would like
The grammar of a language is decided by the group of people who use the language. New grammar rules come into existence when enough members of the group have spoken (signed) their language a particular way often enough and long enough that it would seem odd to speak the language in some other way. American Sign Language is tied to the Deaf Community. We use our language in a certain way. That "certain way" is what constitutes ASL grammar. American Sign Language has its own grammar system, separate from that of English. What this means is ASL grammar has its own rules for phonology, morphology, syntax, and pragmatics.
Iconicity in language means that the form of the word or sign conveys the meaning of the word or sign. In the 70’s, iconicity was considered sub-standard and a language that was considered highly iconic was not a real language (Lidell, 2003). Now, it is realized that iconicity is a characteristic of all languages, spoken and signed. In spoken languages, an example of iconicity is the sound [i], which is found in the English word ‘feet,’ occurs more frequently in words that mean small or tiny, such as English ‘itty bitty teeny weenie.’ In American Sign Language, emotion signs, such as HAPPY, ANGRY and FEEL, occur on the chest, while cognitive signs, such as THINK, KNOW and UNDERSTAND, occur on or near the temple (Kyle, 1985). Iconicity occurs in every language, spoken and signed.
The controversy over the most appropriate education of deaf children plagued this country from the 18th to the 20th century. The two methods heatedly debated were oralism and manualism. Oralism was the education of deaf children using the spoken language, while manualism was the education of deaf children using sign language.
The founding of the American School for the Deaf in Hartford, Conn., in 1817 was a crucial milestone in the way society related to people with disabilities. The time and place are significant because it was a unique conjunction of different currents which led to the school's establishment. Many threads in developing U.S. society coalesced in Hartford in the early nineteenth century. The importance attached to universal literacy (by no means common in the world at the time) and the particular missionary religious doctrines of the prevalent Protestant sects provided both means and motive for the attempt to educate deaf people. The concept of self-reliance and the belief that religious salvation is possible through understanding the Bible determined the methods and purposes of the founders. Literacy, salvation and the skills needed to earn a living were the goals. Achieving these required clarity and fluidity of communication, which is why the school was based on sign language from the start.
The exact beginnings of ASL are not clear, but some suggest that it arose more than 200 years ago from the intermixing of local sign languages and French Sign Language (LSF, or Langue des Signes Française).Today’s ASL includes some elements of LSF plus the original local sign languages, which over the years have melded and changed into a rich, complex, and mature language. Modern ASL and modern LSF are distinct languages and, while they still contain some similar signs, can no longer be understood by each other’s users.
The birth of modern American Sign Language can be described as the sum of certain historical events. To mention a few only: Deaf Institution's attempts to establish a communication medium for the Deaf Communities; North-America's tribes which implemented a communication method by using signs in order to understand each other across different language borders. Their impact on American Sign Language is unknown; Situation on an island five miles from the south-eastern shore of Massachusetts where the rate of genetic deafness were abnormally high, believed to be the result of the founder-effect. It's believed that the Martha's Vineyard Sign Language (MVSL) did not play a significant role on American Sign Language but nevertheless; Efforts by a Father to assist a local minister's deaf daughter with education; The Deaf Community's desire for an own language; The French Sign Language are also a big role player in the development of American Sign Language.
The history of American Sign Language didn't truly begin until 1814 when deaf education was introduced to the U.S. There is virtually no information about American Sign Language history before this time. Early in the 1800s, there were only a few thousand deaf Americans. No standard signed language existed at this time, but various signing systems were created in the deaf communities. These sign systems are now known as Old American Sign Language. The American Sign Language of today is actually related to this language.
American Sign Language (ASL) is commonly said to be "the fourth most-used language in the United States" (alternatively phrased as "the third most-used non-English language in the U.S."). ASL is the language of a sizeable minority. Estimates range from 500,000 to two million speakers in the U.S. alone; there are also many speakers in Canada. Compared to data from the Census Bureau, which counts other language minorities, ASL is the leading minority language in the U.S. after the "big four": Spanish, Italian, German, and French.