What Is the History of American Sign Language?

American Sign Language (ASL) is a visual language that is used by deaf communities in the United States and Canada. It is a complex and sophisticated language that uses hand gestures, facial expressions, body movements, and space to convey meaning.

The history of ASL dates back to the early 1800s when Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, a young minister from Connecticut, met Alice Cogswell, a deaf girl who was unable to communicate effectively with others. Gallaudet was so moved by her plight that he decided to learn how to communicate with her.

He eventually traveled to Europe where he met Laurent Clerc, a deaf teacher who taught him French Sign Language (FSL). Gallaudet brought Clerc back to the United States and together they established the first school for the deaf in America in 1817 – The American School for the Deaf.

The sign language used at this school was a combination of FSL and home signs developed by the students themselves. Over time, this language evolved into what we now know as American Sign Language. In fact, ASL has its own unique grammar and sentence structure that is different from English or any other spoken language.

Despite its rich history and importance in deaf culture, ASL was not recognized as an official language until relatively recently – in 1965. This recognition came after decades of discrimination against deaf people and their language. Before this time, many educators believed that sign languages were inferior to spoken languages and attempted to suppress their use in schools.

Today, ASL is recognized as one of the most widely used sign languages in the world with an estimated 500,000 speakers in North America alone. It is also one of the few languages that has been shown to be fully processed by both sides of the brain – something that makes it unique among human languages.

In conclusion, American Sign Language has a rich history that dates back over two centuries. It has evolved over time to become a unique language with its own grammar, sentence structure, and vocabulary. Despite facing discrimination and suppression in the past, it is now recognized as an official language and continues to be an important part of deaf culture.