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ASL on the WEB
Basic History
Basic Grammar
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In the late 1700's, a man by the name of Laurent Clerc travelled from France to America by the request of a man by the name of Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet. Clerc and Gallaudet had met in France while Gallaudet was there studying methods of teaching the deaf, in order to begin a school for the deaf in the United States. Impressed by what he saw, Gallaudet asked Clerc to return to the States with him, and Clerc obliged.

Basic History

In the States, Clerc had an enormous job ahead of him. Up to that point, there really had not been one single sign language in the United States, and many students came in with "home signs" or no knowledge of any sign whatsoever. In the compiling of the students, while Clerc taught them many of the French signs, what evolved from that was a combination of both the "home signs" and the French Sign Language. In the years since, American Sign Language has mostly derived from the beginning French signs, although there is still an incredible similarity between the two. For a more comprehensive look at the history of ASL:
  • Looking Back: A Reader on the Histories of Deaf Communities and Their Sign Languages, Vol. 20 Harlan L. Lane Renate Fischer (Editor)Barnes and Nobles Price: $59.95 Format: Hardcover, 558pp. ISBN: 3927731323 Publisher: Gallaudet Pub. Date: February 1993
  • American Sign Language: A Look at Its History, Structure and Community Charlotte Lee Baker-Shenk Carol Padden Barnes and Nobles Price: $3.95 Format: Paperback ISBN: 0932666019 Publisher: T J Publishers, Incorporated Pub. Date: October 1978

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Disclaimer: Much of what is on these pages has been fully researched and is true to the best of my knowledge. If you find an error, do not hesitate to email me and I will attempt to set it straight. Website created by Carrie De Ruyter, Sept 1999.  Updated March 2005.