ASL English Same

Is ASL and English the same? Let’s analyze the concept ‘same’. Are we looking at whether ASL and English are the same language? Is the structure the same? Syntax, utterances, slang and so on, the same?

Or does ‘same’ mean equal? Are ASL and English equal peers in language? From a linguistic or layman’s point of view? When we sign or say ‘same’, it provides a concrete conception of one and the other being the same in comparison; however, in ASL the sign SAME has various linguistic meanings. It could mean SIMILAR, LIKE (as in simile, comparison, etc) or used in compound signs such as LOOK-LIKE, SAME-AS (emphasis) or SAME-AS-ME.

So is ASL and English the one and the same? No, the most obvious is how the languages are expressed: ASL being visual/spatial and English being aural/verbal. Are they linguistic peers? Yes, this is made clear through linguistic rules that dominate languages; however, they are slight differences between both languages.

In ASL, there are a lack of articles so favored by English. In English, there is a lack of visual information (such as grammar or size of something) favored by ASL. ASL has classifiers and English has idioms, so if you decide to bring either across language borders, the speakers will get confused. This is because of how each language utilizes their individual uniqueness (Even Hebrew speakers get English idioms mixed up).

Anyway, so you get the gist, what is the point?

Why is the ASL community fighting so hard to get ASL on the social/education map, giving minimal attention to English? ASL is a young language compared to American English (if you think that American and British English are the same, think again).  The validity of ASL as a language was only declared in the 1960’s, a mere 50 years ago. ASL and its precursor languages are almost and more than 200 years old, respectively.

The ASL community KNOWS that both languages are equal linguistic peers. They have seen the success of many who have both languages from birth or early childhood. This is not new. This is often in use in Europe. I would believe that Switzerland is probably a multilingual country due to its prominence to several large countries such as France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Austria to name a few.  So if we KNOW that, why are we fighting?

ASL is recognized as a language yes, in most cases as a foreign language; however, it is NOT recognized as a linguistic peer (think Native Indian languages).  ASL is a native language, yet with the attitudes of American English speakers; it is insignificant, just like Native Indian languages (I protest!). That is why we fight hard, despite the proof … global proof, we are not linguistic peers.

Now see why we’re fighting? ASL English are not the same, they ARE equal linguistic peers and they both deserve the SAME/EQUAL recognition. The same goes for Native Indian languages!

William Stokoe information:,

ASL Linguistics:


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