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American Sign Language Guide
The American Sign Language, or ASL, is the most commonly used sign language among the deaf and the speech impaired in the US. More than two decades ago, the total number of ASL users in the US was around 500,000, and presently, it is estimated that the language is the primary language for up to 2 million Americans.
The birth of ASL dates back to the early 19th century, when Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet formed a school for the deaf in Connecticut. The students in the school were taught a French sign language, and they combined it with their own “Martha’s Vineyard” signs. This resulted in the American Sign Language. Later on, many people started to debate whether the deaf should use the oralist method, manualist method, or answering service and oralism was chosen as the preferred way of communication. As such, sign language lost its importance, but it began to gain recognition again around the 1950s to 1960s, when Englishman William Stokoe convinced experts that ASL had all the elements of a natural language.
Similar to other languages, the American Sign Language also has different dialects. The Black American Sign Language is one of the most popular dialects, and it follows a different set of grammar and vocabulary rules. ASL also has regional accents; the people in the northern part of the country sign faster than those in the south, and signing styles also vary in different parts of the same state.
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