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Origins of ASL and ASL peculiarities

From:Clint Jackson Baker <litrex1@...>
Date:Tuesday, January 22, 2002, 13:25
For those who may be in the dark on this, American
Sign Language was developed by a French instructor of
the deaf named Gallaudet (after whom the university in
DC is named). IIRC he had been brought over to educate
the daughter of a wealthy man, and as things
progressed, this man became a kind of financial backer
for Gallaudet in promoting deaf education.

I meat a girl who knew sign when I was in England and
was shocked that there were basically no similarities.

One more thing, ASL can be divided into dialects
roughly corresponding to each individual state.
Because each state has one state-run school for the
deaf (I think, or so I gathered from a deaf woman I
got to know for a little while), the kids develop
their own subculture and slanglike signs that come
with it.  They like to make puns--an "S" sign next to
each ear to say "Sears" (a dept store), or a hand past
the eyes and brought down for the sign for "milk" to
say "pasteurized milk"--"past-your-eyes milk"!

Also, geography plays a role in other ways.  "St.
Louis" is usually spelled out "STL", but deaf St.
Louisans simply trace an arc in the air representing
the Gateway Arch to say "St. Louis".


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