American Sign Language – Brief History


What is American Sign Language?

American Sign Language (ASL) is the language used by the Deaf community throughout the United States and parts of North America.  It is also used throughout various countries like the Philippines, Hong Kong, Puerto Rico, and Singapore.  ASL has its own grammar and linguistic structure.  American Sign Language incorporates facial expressions, body gestures, fingerspelling, and non manual markers.  Hearing families with deaf children may learn ASL, along with creating “home signs” to be able to communicate with deaf relatives.

Is American Sign Language Universal?

Contrary to popular belief, American Sign Language is not a universal language.  Again, American Sign Language is used throughout the United States, Canada, North America and other countries throughout the world.

History of American Sign Language:

In 1815, Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet traveled to France and met several influential people, one being Laurent Clerc, a deaf student at the Royal Institution for the Deaf in Paris.  T. Gallaudet learned the educational methods at the Royal Institution for the Deaf with sign language.  Gallaudet brought Clerc back to the United States to help establish the first school for the deaf in Connecticut which was called The Connecticut Asylum for the Education and Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb Persons.  Students at the school learned French Sign Language as well as shared their “home signs” with each other.  Today, the school is now called The American School for the Deaf, which educates deaf and hard of hearing students from ages 3 to 21.  For more information about The American School for the Deaf, visit their website at