Sign language

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Posted by kaori 04/01/2009 @ 22:13

Tags : sign language, deafness, disability, health

News headlines
University to offer degree in sign language - Scotsman
THE world's first international sign language degree is being offered at Edinburgh's Heriot-Watt University. Around 90000 people in the UK use British Sign Language as their primary means of communication. Sign languages vary from country to country as...
VSU club promotes deaf awareness - V Spectator
Every second Saturday of the month, deaf, hard-of-hearing, and hearing members of the American Sign Language Club at VSU meet at the food court of the Valdosta Mall for a silent dinner. VSU's ASL Club helps further sign skills abilities for students...
An Exclusive 3rd Place Road Block with Margie and Luke of The ... - Deadbolt
So it didn't make it harder because we had to use sign language in the aspect of that we were able to communicate with each other. But we have kind of our own shorthand sign language that we use and we were able to communicate pretty quickly,...
National TV Council Recommending TV Channels Interpret Broadcast ... - The FINANCIAL
The FINANCIAL -- The National Council for Television and Radio Broadcasting is recommending TV channels to interpret broadcast into the sign language, Council member Tetiana Lebedeva has told a press briefing. In her words, the National TV Council gave...
CHRIS ARDIS: STC's deaf interpreter program is music to my ears - Monitor
The idea for an ITP began about eight years ago when the college began offering courses in American Sign Language; however, at that time, Robert Cantu, World Languages Instructor at the college, found it difficult to produce hard evidence of the demand...
A 15-YEAR-OLD student who set up a sign language class for his ... - Gloucestershire Gazette
Mike was chosen for the award after being nominated by his teacher for setting up an After School British Sign Language Course at Castle School, where he is a pupil. He said: "I'm very pleased I won. I am now confident that more people will be able to...
Roanoke College graduate lets nothing stand in her way - OurValley.org
She has been an inspiration and both her mother and father have been taking sign language courses. Her mother's goal is to one day become an interpreter for the hearing impaired. Inspired by her daughter, she has been teaching her grandson sign...
Ailey adds sign language to its motion repertoire - The Star-Ledger - NJ.com
American Sign Language has been integrated into the choreography of this anniversary commission. The piece grew from a collaboration between emerging dance maker Hope Boykin and the renowned a cappella singers Sweet Honey in the Rock,...
Sign book to be launched on TV - Fingal Independent
Beautifully illustrated by Stephen Wylie and written by Lorna McCormack, the book introduces children of all ages to Irish sign language, allowing youngsters the chance to learn a second language, as well as supporting literacy skills....
Malawi's Deaf Push for More People to Learn Sign Language - Voice of America
By Lameck Masina Deaf people in Malawi are working to increase the number of sign language interpreters. There are only eleven of them in Malawi – not nearly enough to meet the needs of the country's 50000 hearing-impaired people....

Sign language

Two sign language interpreters working as a team for a school.

A sign language (also signed language) is a language which, instead of acoustically conveyed sound patterns, uses visually transmitted sign patterns (manual communication, body language and lip patterns) to convey meaning—simultaneously combining hand shapes, orientation and movement of the hands, arms or body, and facial expressions to express fluidly a speaker's thoughts. Sign languages commonly develop in deaf communities, which can include interpreters and friends and families of deaf people as well as people who are deaf or hard of hearing themselves.

Wherever communities of deaf people exist, sign languages develop. In fact, their complex spatial grammars are markedly different from the grammars of spoken languages. Hundreds of sign languages are in use around the world and are at the cores of local Deaf cultures. Some sign languages have obtained some form of legal recognition, while others have no status at all.

In addition to sign languages, various signed codes of spoken languages have been developed, such as Signed English and Warlpiri Sign Language. These are not to be confused with languages, oral or signed; a signed code of an oral language is simply a signed mode of the language it carries, just as a writing system is a written mode. Signed codes of oral languages can be useful for learning oral languages or for expressing and discussing literal quotations from those languages, but they are generally too awkward and unwieldy for normal discourse. For example, a teacher and deaf student of English in the United States might use Signed English to cite examples of English usage, but the discussion of those examples would be in American Sign Language.

Several culturally well developed sign languages are a medium for stage performances such as sign-language poetry. Many of the poetic mechanisms available to signing poets are not available to a speaking poet.

The written history of sign language began in the 17th century in Spain. In 1620, Juan Pablo Bonet published Reducción de las letras y arte para enseñar a hablar a los mudos (‘Reduction of letters and art for teaching mute people to speak’) in Madrid. It is considered the first modern treatise of Phonetics and Logopedia, setting out a method of oral education for the deaf people by means of the use of manual signs, in form of a manual alphabet to improve the communication of the dumb or deaf people.

From the language of signs of Bonet, Charles-Michel de l'Épée published his alphabet in the 18th century, which has arrived basically unchanged until the present time.

In 1755, Abbé de l'Épée founded the first public school for deaf children in Paris; Laurent Clerc was arguably its most famous graduate. He went to the United States with Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet to found the American School for the Deaf in Hartford, Connecticut. Gallaudet's son, Edward Miner Gallaudet founded a school for the deaf in 1857, which in 1864 became Gallaudet University in Washington, DC, the only liberal arts university for and of the deaf in the world.

Generally, each spoken language has a sign language counterpart in as much as each linguistic population will contain Deaf members who will generate a sign language. In much the same way that geographical or cultural forces will isolate populations and lead to the generation of different and distinct spoken languages, the same forces operate on signed languages and so they tend to maintain their identities through time in roughly the same areas of influence as the local spoken languages. This occurs even though sign languages have no relation to the spoken languages of the lands in which they arise. There are notable exceptions to this pattern, however, as some geographic regions sharing a spoken language have multiple, unrelated signed languages. Variations within a 'national' sign language can usually be correlated to the geographic location of residential schools for the deaf.

International Sign, formerly known as Gestuno, is used mainly at international Deaf events such as the Deaflympics and meetings of the World Federation of the Deaf. Recent studies claim that while International Sign is a kind of a pidgin, they conclude that it is more complex than a typical pidgin and indeed is more like a full signed language.

In linguistic terms, sign languages are as rich and complex as any oral language, despite the common misconception that they are not "real languages". Professional linguists have studied many sign languages and found them to have every linguistic component required to be classed as true languages.

Sign languages are not pantomime - in other words, signs are conventional, often arbitrary and do not necessarily have a visual relationship to their referent, much as most spoken language is not onomatopoeic. While iconicity is more systematic and wide-spread in sign languages than in spoken ones, the difference is not categorical. Nor are they a visual rendition of an oral language. They have complex grammars of their own, and can be used to discuss any topic, from the simple and concrete to the lofty and abstract.

Sign languages, like oral languages, organize elementary, meaningless units (phonemes; once called cheremes in the case of sign languages) into meaningful semantic units. The elements of a sign are Handshape (or Handform), Orientation (or Palm Orientation), Location (or Place of Articulation), Movement, and Non-manual markers (or Facial Expression), summarised in the acronym HOLME.

Common linguistic features of deaf sign languages are extensive use of classifiers, a high degree of inflection, and a topic-comment syntax. Many unique linguistic features emerge from sign languages' ability to produce meaning in different parts of the visual field simultaneously. For example, the recipient of a signed message can read meanings carried by the hands, the facial expression and the body posture in the same moment. This is in contrast to oral languages, where the sounds that comprise words are mostly sequential (tone being an exception).

A common misconception is that sign languages are somehow dependent on oral languages, that is, that they are oral language spelled out in gesture, or that they were invented by hearing people. Hearing teachers in deaf schools, such as Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, are often incorrectly referred to as “inventors” of sign language.

Manual alphabets (fingerspelling) are used in sign languages, mostly for proper names and technical or specialised vocabulary borrowed from spoken languages. The use of fingerspelling was once taken as evidence that sign languages were simplified versions of oral languages, but in fact it is merely one tool among many. Fingerspelling can sometimes be a source of new signs, which are called lexicalized signs.

On the whole, deaf sign languages are independent of oral languages and follow their own paths of development. For example, British Sign Language and American Sign Language are quite different and mutually unintelligible, even though the hearing people of Britain and America share the same oral language.

Similarly, countries which use a single oral language throughout may have two or more sign languages; whereas an area that contains more than one oral language might use only one sign language. South Africa, which has 11 official oral languages and a similar number of other widely used oral languages is a good example of this. It has only one sign language with two variants due to its history of having two major educational institutions for the deaf which have served different geographic areas of the country.

Sign languages exploit the unique features of the visual medium(sight). Oral language is linear. Only one sound can be made or received at a time. Sign language, on the other hand, is visual; hence a whole scene can be taken in at once. Information can be loaded into several channels and expressed simultaneously. As an illustration, in English one could utter the phrase, "I drove here". To add information about the drive, one would have to make a longer phrase or even add a second, such as, "I drove here along a winding road," or "I drove here. It was a nice drive." However, in American Sign Language, information about the shape of the road or the pleasing nature of the drive can be conveyed simultaneously with the verb 'drive' by inflecting the motion of the hand, or by taking advantage of non-manual signals such as body posture and facial expression, at the same time that the verb 'drive' is being signed. Therefore, whereas in English the phrase "I drove here and it was very pleasant" is longer than "I drove here," in American Sign Language the two may be the same length.

In fact, in terms of syntax, ASL shares more with spoken Japanese than it does with English.

Gesture is a typical component of spoken languages. More elaborate systems of manual communication have developed in places or situations where speech is not practical or permitted, such as cloistered religious communities, scuba diving, television recording studios, loud workplaces, stock exchanges, baseball, hunting (by groups such as the Kalahari bushmen), or in the game Charades. In Rugby Union the Referee uses a limited but defined set of signs to communicate his/her decisions to the spectators. Recently, there has been a movement to teach and encourage the use of sign language with toddlers before they learn to talk, because such young children can communicate effectively with signed languages well before they are physically capable of speech. This is typically referred to as Baby Sign. There is also movement to use signed languages more with non-deaf and non-hard-of-hearing children with other causes of speech impairment or delay, for the obvious benefit of effective communication without dependence on speech.

On occasion, where the prevalence of deaf people is high enough, a deaf sign language has been taken up by an entire local community. Famous examples of this include Martha's Vineyard Sign Language in the USA, Kata Kolok in a village in Bali, Adamorobe Sign Language in Ghana and Yucatec Maya sign language in Mexico. In such communities deaf people are not socially disadvantaged.

Many Australian Aboriginal sign languages arose in a context of extensive speech taboos, such as during mourning and initiation rites. They are or were especially highly developed among the Warlpiri, Warumungu, Dieri, Kaytetye, Arrernte, Warlmanpa, and are based on their respective spoken languages.

A pidgin sign language arose among tribes of American Indians in the Great Plains region of North America (see Plains Indian Sign Language). It was used to communicate among tribes with different spoken languages. There are especially users today among the Crow, Cheyenne, and Arapaho. Unlike other sign languages developed by hearing people, it shares the spatial grammar of deaf sign languages.

Sign systems are sometimes developed within a single family. For instance, when hearing parents with no sign language skills have a deaf child, an informal system of signs will naturally develop, unless repressed by the parents. The term for these mini-languages is home sign (sometimes homesign or kitchen sign).

Home sign arises due to the absence of any other way to communicate. Within the span of a single lifetime and without the support or feedback of a community, the child is forced to invent signals to facilitate the meeting of his or her communication needs. Although this kind of system is grossly inadequate for the intellectual development of a child and it comes nowhere near meeting the standards linguists use to describe a complete language, it is a common occurrence. No type of Home Sign is recognized as an official language.

Although deaf sign languages have emerged naturally in deaf communities alongside or among spoken languages, they are unrelated to spoken languages and have different grammatical structures at their core. A group of sign "languages" known as manually coded languages are more properly understood as signed modes of spoken languages, and therefore belong to the language families of their respective spoken languages. There are, for example, several such signed encodings of English.

There has been very little historical linguistic research on sign languages, and few attempts to determine genetic relationships between sign languages, other than simple comparison of lexical data and some discussion about whether certain sign languages are dialects of a language or languages of a family. Languages may be spread through migration, through the establishment of deaf schools (often by foreign-trained educators), or due to political domination.

Language contact is common, making clear family classifications difficult — it is often unclear whether lexical similarity is due to borrowing or a common parent language. Contact occurs between sign languages, between signed and spoken languages (Contact Sign), and between sign languages and gestural systems used by the broader community. One author has speculated that Adamorobe Sign Language may be related to the "gestural trade jargon used in the markets throughout West Africa", in vocabulary and areal features including prosody and phonetics.

The only comprehensive classification along these lines going beyond a simple listing of languages dates back to 1991. The classification is based on the 69 sign languages from the 1988 edition of Ethnologue that were known at the time of the 1989 conference on sign languages in Montreal and 11 more languages the author added after the conference.

In his classification, the author distinguishes between primary and alternative sign languages and, subcategorically, between languages recognizable as single languages and languages thought to be composite groups. The prototype-A class of languages includes all those sign languages that seemingly cannot be derived from any other language. Prototype-R languages are languages that are remotely modelled on prototype-A language by a process Kroeber (1940) called "stimulus diffusion". The classes of BSL(bfi)-, DGS(gsg)-, JSL-, LSF(fsl)- and LSG-derived languages represent "new languages" derived from prototype languages by linguistic processes of creolization and relexification. Creolization is seen as enriching overt morphology in "gesturally signed" languages, as compared to reducing overt morphology in "vocally signed" languages.

Sign language differs from oral language in its relation to writing. The phonemic systems of oral languages are primarily sequential: that is, the majority of phonemes are produced in a sequence one after another, although many languages also have non-sequential aspects such as tone. As a consequence, traditional phonemic writing systems are also sequential, with at best diacritics for non-sequential aspects such as stress and tone.

Sign languages have a higher non-sequential component, with many "phonemes" produced simultaneously. For example, signs may involve fingers, hands, and face moving simultaneously, or the two hands moving in different directions. Traditional writing systems are not designed to deal with this level of complexity.

Partially because of this, sign languages are not often written. Most deaf signers read and write the oral language of their country. However, there have been several attempts at developing scripts for sign language. These have included both "phonetic" systems, such as HamNoSys (the Hamburg Notational System) and SignWriting, which can be used for any sign language, and "phonemic" systems such as the one used by William Stokoe in his 1965 Dictionary of American Sign Language, which are designed for a specific language.

These systems are based on iconic symbols. Some, such as SignWriting and HamNoSys, are pictographic, being conventionalized pictures of the hands, face, and body; others, such as the Stokoe notation, are more iconic. Stokoe used letters of the Latin alphabet and Arabic numerals to indicate the handshapes used in fingerspelling, such as 'A' for a closed fist, 'B' for a flat hand, and '5' for a spread hand; but non-alphabetic symbols for location and movement, such as '' for the trunk of the body, '×' for contact, and '^' for an upward movement. David J. Peterson has attempted to create a phonetic transcription system for signing that is ASCII-friendly known as the Sign Language International Phonetic Alphabet (SLIPA).

SignWriting, being pictographic, is able to represent simultaneous elements in a single sign. The Stokoe notation, on the other hand, is sequential, with a conventionalized order of a symbol for the location of the sign, then one for the hand shape, and finally one (or more) for the movement. The orientation of the hand is indicated with an optional diacritic before the hand shape. When two movements occur simultaneously, they are written one atop the other; when sequential, they are written one after the other. Neither the Stokoe nor HamNoSys scripts are designed to represent facial expressions or non-manual movements, both of which SignWriting accommodates easily, although this is being gradually corrected in HamNoSys.

The gestural theory states that vocal human language developed from a gestural sign language. The important question for gestural theories is why there was a shift to vocalization.

Note: the articles for specific sign languages (e.g. ASL or BSL) may contain further external links, e.g. for learning those languages.

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American Sign Language

American Sign Language ASL.svg

American Sign Language (or ASL, Ameslan) is the dominant sign language of the Deaf community in the United States, in the English-speaking parts of Canada, and in parts of Mexico. Although the United Kingdom and the United States share English as a spoken and written language, British Sign Language (BSL) is quite different from ASL, and the two sign languages are not mutually intelligible.

ASL is also used (sometimes alongside indigenous sign languages) in the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Côte d'Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Chad, Gabon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, Mauritania, Kenya, Madagascar, and Zimbabwe. Like other sign languages, its grammar and syntax are distinct from any spoken language in its area of influence. While there has been no reliable survey of the number of people who use ASL as their primary language, estimates range from 500,000 to 2 million in the U.S. alone.

In the United States, as in most of the world, hearing families with deaf children often employ ad-hoc home sign for simple communications. Today though, ASL classes are offered in many secondary and postsecondary schools. ASL is a language distinct from spoken English—complete with its own syntax and grammar and supporting its own culture. The origin of modern ASL is ultimately tied to the confluence of many events and circumstances, including historical attempts at deaf education; the unique situation present on a small island in Massachusetts; the attempts of a father to enlist a local minister to help educate his deaf daughter; and in no small part the ingenuity and genius of people (in this case deaf people) for language itself.

Standardized sign languages have been used in Italy since the 17th century and in France since the 18th century for the instruction of the deaf. Old French Sign Language (OFSL) developed and was used in Paris by the Abbé de l'Épée in his school for the deaf. These languages were always modeled after the natural sign languages already in use by the deaf cultures in their area of origin, often with additions to show aspects of the grammar of the local spoken languages.

Indigenous Peoples of the American Plains used Plains Indian Sign Language as an interlanguage for communication between people/tribes not sharing a common spoken language; its influence on ASL, if any, is unknown.

Off the coast of Massachusetts, on the island of Martha's Vineyard in the 18th century, the population had a much higher rate of deafness than the general population of the continental United States because of the founder effect and the island's isolation. Martha's Vineyard Sign Language was well known by almost all islanders since so many families had deaf members. It afforded almost everyone the opportunity to have frequent contact with a sign language while at an age most conducive to effortlessly learning a language.

Congregationalist minister and deaf educator Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet is credited with popularizing the signing technique in North America. At the behest of a father who was interested in education for his deaf daughter, Alice Cogswell, Gallaudet was enlisted to investigate methods of teaching the deaf. In the early 1800s he visited the Abbé de l'Épée's school in Paris and convinced one of the teachers, Laurent Clerc, to return with him to America. In 1817 they founded the American Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb (now the American School for the Deaf), in Hartford, Connecticut, to teach sign language to American deaf students.

It was at this school that all these influences would intermingle, interact and what would become ASL was born. Many of the school's students were from Martha's Vineyard, and they mixed their "native" sign language with Clerc's OFSL. Other students probably brought their own highly localized sign language or "home sign" systems to the mix. Undoubtedly, spontaneous lexicon developed at the school as well. If there was any influence from sign language of indigenous people, it may have been here that it was absorbed into the language.

Interestingly, because of the early influence of the sign language of France upon the school, the vocabularies of ASL and modern French Sign Language are approximately 60% shared, whereas ASL and British Sign Language, for example, are almost completely dissimilar.

From its synthesis at this first public school for the deaf in North America, the language went on to grow. Many of the graduates of this school went on to found schools of their own in many other states, thus spreading the methods of Gallaudet and Clerc and serving to expand and standardize the language; as with most languages though, there are regional variations.

After being strongly established in the United States there was a bitter fight between those who supported oralism over manualism in the late 1800s. Many notable individuals of high standing contributed to this row, such as Alexander Graham Bell. The oralists won many battles and for a long time the use of sign was suppressed, socially and pedagogically. Many considered sign to not even be a language at all. This situation was changed by William Stokoe, a professor of English hired at Gallaudet University in 1955. He immediately became fascinated by ASL and began serious study of it. Eventually, through publication in linguistics journals of articles containing detailed linguistic analysis of ASL, he was able to convince the scientific mainstream that ASL was indeed a natural language on a par with any other.

The language continues to grow and change like any living language. In particular, ASL constantly adds new signs in an attempt to keep up with constantly changing technology.

ASL is a natural language as proved to the satisfaction of the linguistic community by William Stokoe, and contains phonology, morphology, semantics, syntax and pragmatics just like spoken languages. It is a manual language or visual language, meaning that the information is expressed not with combinations of sounds but with combinations of handshapes, palm orientations, movements of the hands, arms and body, location in relation to the body, and facial expressions. While spoken languages are produced by the vocal cords only, and can thus be easily written in linear patterns, ASL uses the hands, head and body, with constantly changing movements and orientations. Like other natural sign languages, it is "three dimensional" in this sense. ASL is used natively and predominantly by the Deaf and hard-of-hearing of the United States and Canada.

Although it often seems as though the signs are meaningful of themselves, in fact they can be as arbitrary as words in spoken language. For example, a speaking child may often make the mistake of using the word "you" to refer to themselves, since others use that word to refer to him or her. Children who acquire the sign YOU (pointing at one's interlocutor) make similar mistakes – they will point at others to mean themselves, indicating that even something as seemingly explicit as pointing is an arbitrary sign in ASL, like words in a spoken language.

Klima and Bellugi used American Sign Language in formulating that classification. The theory that signs are self-explanatory can be conclusively disproved by the fact that non-signers cannot understand fluent, continuous sign language. The majority of signs are opaque.

Generally, signs that are "Transparent" are signs of objects or words that became popular after the basics of ASL were established. There are, of course, exceptions to this.

In ASL, fingerspelling is used primarily for proper nouns, for emphasis (for example, fingerspelling STOP is more emphatic than signing 'stop'), for clarity, and for instruction.

ASL includes both fingerspelling borrowings from English, as well as the incorporation of alphabetic letters from English words into ASL signs to distinguish related meanings of what would otherwise be covered by a single sign in ASL. For example, two hands trace a circle to mean 'a group of people'. Several kinds of groups can be specified by handshape: When made with C hands, the sign means 'class'; when made with the F handshape, it means 'family'. Such signs are often referred to as "initialized" signs because they substitute the first letter (the initial) of the corresponding English word as the handshape in order to provide a more specific meaning.

When using alphabetic letters in these ways, several otherwise non-phonemic handshapes become distinctive. For example, outside fingerspelling there is but a single fist handshape - the placement of the thumb is irrelevant. However, within fingerspelling, the position of the thumb on the fist distinguishes the letters A, S, and T. Letter-incorporated signs which rely on such minor distinctions as thumb position tend not to be stable in the long run, but they may eventually create new distinctions in the language. For example, due to signs such as 'elevator', which may require the E handshape (depending on the sign used), some argue that E has become phonemically distinct from the 5/claw handshape.

Fingerspelling has also given way to a class of signs known as "loan signs" or "borrowed signs." Sometimes defined as "lexicalized fingerspelling," loan signs are somewhat frequent and represent an English word which has, over time, developed a unique movement and shape. Sometimes loan signs are not even recognized as such because they are so frequently used and their movement has become so specialized. Loan signs are sometimes used for emphasis (like the loan sign #YES substituted for the sign YES), but sometimes represent the only form of the sign (e.g., #NO). Probably the most commonly used example of a loan sign is the sign for NO. In this sign, the first two fingers are fused, held out straight, and then tapped against the thumb in a repeated motion. When broken down, it can be seen that this movement is an abbreviated way of fingerspelling N-O-N-O. Loan signs are usually glossed as the English word in all capital letters preceded by the pound sign(#).Other commonly known loan signs include #BACK, #BUS, #CAR, #JOB, #PIZZA, and #YES.

ASL is often written with English words in all capital letters, which is known as glossing. This is, however, a method used simply to teach the structure of the language. ASL is a visual language, not a written language. There is no one-to-one correspondence between words in ASL and English, and much of the inflectional modulation of ASL signs is lost.

There are two true writing systems in use for ASL: a phonemic Stokoe notation, which has a separate symbol or diacritic mark for every phonemic hand shape, motion, and position (though it leaves something to be desired in the representation of facial expression), and a more popular iconic system called SignWriting, which represents each sign with a rather abstract illustration of its salient features. SignWriting is commonly used for student newsletters and similar purposes.

In recent years, it has been shown that exposure to sign language has a positive impact on the socialization of hearing children. When infants are taught to sign, parents are able to converse with them at a developmental stage when they are not yet capable of producing oral speech, which requires fine control of both breathing and the vocal tract. The ability of a child to actively communicate earlier than would otherwise be possible appears to accelerate language development and to decrease the frustrations of communication.

Many parents use a collection of simplified or ad hoc signs called "baby sign", as infants do not have the dexterity required for true ASL. However, parents can learn to recognize their baby's approximations of adult ASL signs, just as they will later learn to recognize their approximations of oral language, so teaching an infant ASL is also possible. Typically young children will make an ASL sign in the correct location and use the correct hand motion, but may be able only to approximate the hand shape, for example, using one finger instead of three in signing water.

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Adamorobe Sign Language

Adamorobe Sign Language (AdaSL) is an indigenous sign language used in Adamorobe, an Akan village in eastern Ghana. Its users are about 30 deaf and 1370 hearing people.”. Ethnologue reports a total of 3,400 signers, including hearing users, but a recent census mentions a total of 1400 inhabitants.

The Adamorobe community is notable for its unusually high incidence of hereditary deafness (genetic recessive autosome), estimated at 2% of the total population, or 15% according to Ethnologue. In the past, this percentage is thought to have been as high as 60%. Deaf people are fully incorporated into the community. The inhabitants of Adamorobe cannot remember a time without deaf people in the village.

Under these circumstances, Adamorobe has developed an indigenous sign language, fully independent from the country's standard Ghanaian Sign Language (which is related to American Sign Language). AdaSL shares signs and prosodic features with some other sign languages in the region, but it has been suggested these similarities are due to culturally shared gestures rather than a genetic relationship. AdaSL has features that set it apart from the sign languages of large Deaf communities studied so far, including the absence of classifier constructions for the expression of motion and location. Instead, AdaSL uses several types of serial verb constructions also found in the surrounding spoken language, Akan. Frishberg suggests that AdaSL may be related to the "gestural trade jargon used in the markets throughout West Africa". Thus AdaSL provides an interesting domain for research on cross-linguistic sign languages.

Since over a decade, the deaf children of the village attend a boarding school in Mampong-Akuapem, where the ASL based Ghanaian Sign Language is used. As a consequence, this language has become the first language of these children and their command of AdaSL is decreasing. This is likely to lead to a complete shift of the deaf community in Adamorobe to Ghanaian Sign Language. As such, AdaSL is an endangered sign language.

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British Sign Language

Saying thank you in BSL.  Flat hand in front of the chin and sweep outwards/forwards

British Sign Language (BSL) is the sign language used in the United Kingdom (UK), and is the first or preferred language of deaf people in the UK; the number of signers has been put at 30,000 to 70,000. The language makes use of space and involves movement of the hands, body, face and head. Many thousands of people who are not Deaf also use BSL, as hearing relatives of Deaf people, sign language interpreters or as a result of other contact with the British Deaf community.

Although the United Kingdom and the United States share English as the predominant spoken language, British Sign Language is quite distinct from American Sign Language (ASL). BSL fingerspelling is also different from ASL, as it uses two hands whereas ASL uses one. BSL is also distinct from Irish Sign Language (ISL) (ISG in the ISO system) which is more closely related to French Sign Language (LSF) and ASL.

It is also distinct from Signed English, a manually coded method expressed to represent the English language.

The sign languages used in Australia and New Zealand, Auslan and New Zealand Sign Language, respectively, evolved largely from 19th century BSL, and all retain the same manual alphabet, grammar, and similar lexicon. These three languages may technically be considered dialects of a single language (BANZSL) due to their use of the same grammar, manual alphabet, and the high degree of lexical sharing (overlap of signs). The term BANZSL was coined by Trevor Johnston and Adam Schembri.

In Australia Deaf schools were established by educated Deaf people from London, Edinburgh and Dublin. This introduced the London and Edinburgh dialects of BSL to Melbourne and Sydney respectively and Irish Sign Language to Sydney in Roman Catholic schools for the Deaf. The language contact post secondary education between Australian ISL users and 'Australian BSL' users accounts for some of the dialectal differences we see between modern BSL and Auslan. Tertiary education in the US for some Deaf Australian Deaf adults also accounts for some ASL borrowings found in modern Auslan.

Auslan, BSL and NZSL have 82% of signs identical (using concepts from a Swadesh list). When considering identical as well as similar or related signs there are 98% cognate signs between the languages. By comparison, ASL and BANZSL have only 31% signs identical, or 44% cognate. Further information will be available after the completion of the BSL corpus is completed and allows for comparison with the Auslan corpus and the Sociolinguistic Variation in New Zealand Sign Language project . There continues to be language contact between BSL, Auslan and NZSL through migration (Deaf people and interpreters), the media (television programmes such as See Hear, Switched, Rush and SignPost are often recorded and shared informally in all three countries) and conferences (the World Federation of the Deaf Conference - WFD - in Brisbane 1999 saw many British Deaf people travelling to Australia).

Makaton, a communication system for people with cognitive impairments or other communication difficulties, was originally developed with signs borrowed from British Sign Language. The sign language used in Sri Lanka is also closely related to BSL despite the spoken language not being English, demonstrating the distance between sign languages and spoken ones.

BSL users campaigned to have BSL recognised on a similar level to Welsh, Scottish Gaelic, and Irish. BSL was recognised as a language in its own right by the UK government on 18 March 2003, but it has no legal protection, so therefore is not an official language of the United Kingdom. There is however legislation requiring the provision of interpreters such as the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.

BSL has many regional dialects. Signs used in Scotland, for example, may not always be understood in southern England, and vice versa. Some signs are even more local, occurring only in certain towns or cities (such as the Manchester system of number signs). Likewise, some may go in or out of fashion, or evolve over time, just as terms in spoken languages do.

Many British television channels broadcast programmes with in-vision signing, using BSL, as well as specially made programmes aimed mainly at deaf people such as the BBC's See Hear and Channel 4's VEE-TV.

BBC News broadcasts in-vision signing at 07:00-07:45, 08:00-08:20 and 13.00-13.45 GMT each weekday. BBC One also broadcasts in-vision signed repeats of the channel's primetime programmes between 00.30 to 04.00 each weekday.

British Sign Language can be learnt throughout the UK and three examination systems exist. Courses are provided by community colleges, local centres for Deaf people and private organisations. Most tutors are native users of sign language and hold a relevant teaching qualification.

The British Deaf Association has formed the BSL Academy to provide an official British Sign Language curriculum and tutor training.

Deaf Studies courses with specific streams for sign language interpreting exist at several British universities. Course entry requirements vary from no previous knowledge of BSL to NVQ level 4 BSL (or equivalent). Courses are often mapped against Signature's (previously CACDP) language qualifications and/or the National Occupational Standards for Interpreting; mapping ensures completion of a course gives eligibility to register with the National Registers of Communication Professionals with Deaf and Deafblind People (the NRCPD).

Applications for Junior Trainee, Trainee or MRSLI (Member of the Register of Sign Language Interpreters) status are considered and vetted by the NRCPD. To be eligible candidates must have the relevant qualifications and must pass a CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) check. Interpreters must have an advanced knowledge of English and BSL and must be able to process information quickly and accurately.

Interpreters may apply for the status of "Junior Trainee Interpreter" after completing the Level III/ NVQ 3 BSL assessment (they must also be enrolled on a recognised interpreter training programme, have completed some initial training and have professional indemnity insurance to register). They may then undertake work in restricted settings. Once registered with an approved course and having demonstrated their BSL is NVQ 4 standard interpreters are then eligible for the "Trainee Interpreter" title and can work in a wider variety of settings.

After completing an approved course and once the interpreter has been assessed for the NVQ 4 in BSL Interpreting (or equivalent), Trainees can apply to become a "Member of the Register of Sign Language Interpreters" (MRSLI). This status allows an interpreter to work in all settings. Even once MRSLI status is achieved, however, an interpreter is required to undertake Continuous Professional Development and when available, specialist training is required to work in specific domains. Some settings have policy guidelines (e.g. the Criminal Justice System) that require registered MRSLI status or, 'the yellow badge' before a sign language interpreter can work in those settings.

The Association of Sign Language Interpreters provides a network of regional groups, professional development opportunities and a mentoring scheme. It represents the sign language interpreting profession in England, Wales and Northern Ireland sitting on advisory committees and having strong links with the NRCPD. Membership is available as Student, Associate and Full levels. The latter two categories provide the interpreter with professional indemnity insurance. Other interested parties can also subscribe as either Individual or Corporate Supporters.

Communication Support Workers (CSWs) are people who support the communication of Deaf students in education at all ages, and Deaf people in many areas of work, using British Sign Language and other methods. Association of Communication Support Workers ACSW is the National Association that supports and represents the interests and views of CSWs, encourages good practice and aims to improve the training standards and opportunities for current and future CSWs. The Association provides a professional network; improving information exchange, professional standards and support.

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Source : Wikipedia