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Black American sign language

You’ve probably all heard of African American Vernacular English (AAVE), but did you know that Black American sign language (Black ASL) differs also?

An intriguing article in the Washington Post explores how the two languages came to be so different. Researchers began to investigate this issue around five years ago, and last year published a book called “The Hidden Treasure of Black ASL”.

The book and its accompanying DVD emphasize that Black ASL is not just a slang form of signing. Instead, think of the two signing systems as comparable to American and British English: similar but with differences that follow regular patterns and a lot of variation in individual usage. In fact, says Ceil Lucas, one of McCaskill’s co-authors and a professor of linguistics at Gallaudet, Black ASL could be considered the purer of the two forms, closer in some ways to the system that Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet promulgated when he founded the first U.S. school for the deaf — known at the time as the American Asylum for Deaf Mutes — in Hartford, Conn., in 1817. (Source: Washington Post)

The article is fascinating, especially the real-life experiences, so take a look at the whole thing.