Hill, et al., (2015), researched on the differences between the blackASL and the White ASL and found that substantial differences existbetween these two. They concluded that the difference is primarily onthe use of hands, repetition, the presence of the spoken blackAmerican English influencing the Black ASL, the size of the signingspace and the location of the sign. On the other hand, Huebner& Uyechi (2004) explored the issues of languageshift to English, maintenance of the ancestral language, and thelanguage discrimination experienced by the members of the AsianAmerican communities.
The researchers’ contention is that Black American Sign Languagetends to incorporate a large signing space such that signers producecertain signs by extending their hands further away in relative tothe body when compared to other dialects. Hill and colleagues havefailed to explain the reasons for the huge differences in the signlanguage. I think that the large sign space is a result of theinclusion of the black culture in their sign language. Hence, thelarge signing space is a form of expressions for the Black culturethat tends to be more poetic and louder with words. According toHuebner &Uyechi (2004) English language differs among members ofthe Asian American communities depending on whether an individual wasin the first or the second wave of the immigration. I think that thesame cultural identity seen in the Black ASL is also present in manyAsian languages whose grammar contains honorific that depict thesocial relationship between the listener, speaker as well as thetopic. Culturally, for the Asian communities the failure to includethe honorifics amount to rudeness. I think that language is one ofthe aspects in which a group’s culture is best expressed.
Additionally, Hill and Colleagues found that the Black Americansigners tend to use more two-handed variants of signs as compared tothe White ASL, who prefer to use one-handed variants. The otherpoint made by Hill, et al., (2015) is that the Black American Signlanguage borrows heavily from the African-American English. From myunderstanding, the sign language is a visual representation of thespoken language. I think that while the White American signers facea fairly hard time communicating with their British counterparts, itwill be extremely hard to communicate with sign speakers from otherparts of the world such as the Armenians or Argentineans. I thinkthat the developers of sign language seek to use items or things froma group’s culture or surrounding so that a deaf person in the samecontext can easily understand what is said. I think that people, inthis case, the Black Americans are part of the African American deafpersons’ environment. Hence, there is a need for the inclusion ofthe African American spoken language in the Black ASL so that a deafin that culture can relate to it. The same way the Black ASL andWhite American ASL differ, Asian communities experience linguisticdiversity. For example, while the Vietnamese, Chinese and Hmonglanguages the subjects come before the verb, for the Japanese andKoreans a verb comes after the subject. This also supports mycontention that language is the best form of cultural expression.
In conclusion, a group’s culture is best expressed in its language.While culture affects a group’s sign language as seen in the BlackASL, it also equally influences the written and spoken language asseen in the Asian American language.
Hill, et al., (2015. The Black ASL (American Sign Language) Project:Overview. The Oxford Handbook of Africa American Language.
Huebner, T.,& Uyechi, L. (2004). Asian American Voices: Language in the AsianAmerican Community. Languagein the USA: Themes for the Twenty-first Century,245-67.