Before delving into different sign language alphabets from around the world, it’s important to understand how sign language alphabets are created and how they differ.
Deaf communities give birth to sign language alphabets. Different language alphabets originate from distinct sign language families, just as different spoken language alphabets do. As a result, a person in Ghana saying “Hello” in sign language employs different motions and facial expressions than someone in South Korea saying “Hello.”
Furthermore, even if two people are from English-speaking countries, their sign language may differ. Because ASL (American Sign Language) evolved from LSF (French Sign Language), an American citizen will have an easier time conversing with a French person through sign language.
The alphabet in sign form is usually the first step in learning sign language. Fingerspelling is the use of sign language to express letters.
Different alphabets employ different symbols to represent letters. Some alphabets employ two-handed signs, whereas others employ one-handed signs. Two-handed signs, for example, are used in British Sign Language, New Zealand Sign Language, and Ausland Sign Language, which is Australian Sign Language. The BANZSL Language Family is made up of these languages. Turkish Sign Language is another two-handed alphabet.
When signing with two hands, one hand is the dominating hand and the other is the subordinate hand. The latter typically executes a simpler or identical movement. The dominant hand is positioned above or alongside the subordinate hand and uses signs to signify letters.
American Sign Language (ASL) and French Sign Language (LSF) both use one-handed fingerspelling.
ASL (American Sign Language)
The American Sign Language is the most widely used sign language in the world. Naturally, it is the most widely used sign language in the United States of America.
It is a comprehensive sign language with both manual and nonmanual elements. Nonmanual features, also known as nonmanual signals, are sign language aspects that do not include hand movements, such as facial expressions, brow movement, head tilting, and body moving. They modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs.
ASL, as previously indicated, has the same alphabet as English, however it is descended from Old French Sign Language. As a result, the words are not articulated in the same way that they are in the spoken language of English.
LSF (French Sign Language)
French Sign Language, also known as Langues des Signes Française in French, is the sign language of deaf communities in France and parts of Switzerland that speak French.
Behind LSF is an unbelievable story. Abbé Charles Michel de l’Epée taught deaf twin sisters in 1760. Abbé gradually acquired the signs that the sisters used to communicate with each other. He then established the National Institute for the Deaf. However, the LSF that exists now is the consequence of the language evolving gradually through time.
The importance of facial expressions cannot be overstated. For example, frowning signaled that a question was being asked. The movement of the hands might signify time. The rear of the shoulder represents the past, while the front of the person represents the future.
Every day, new terms are added to the language, and it is affected by the French language.
Sign Language in the United Kingdom
British Sign Language is a complex language comprised of body language, facial expressions, and hand movement.
Sign language has been documented since the 15th century. Sign language was forbidden in classrooms until the 1940s, and students were forced to lip read. After many years of persecution, the British government finally recognized BSL as a language in 2003.
In different places, several dialects of BSL exist. Some Scottish signs, for example, may be misunderstood by a deaf person in England. Despite many similarities, BSL differs from ASL and Irish Sign Language.
BSL has its own grammar as well as a distinct syntax. This is how complex sentences are constructed. It employs a topic-comment structure, in which the topic is established first, followed by the comment, allowing for a more in-depth discussion.
As previously stated, BSL shares its sign language with Australian Sign Language and New Zealand Language, constituting the BANZSL Language Family.
Sign Language in Spanish
Despite the fact that Spain has many dialects and sign languages, such as Catalan Sign Language and Valencian Sign Language, the majority of the deaf people in Spain uses Spanish Sign Language. Nonetheless, these languages are quite similar.
Spanish Sign Language, like most sign languages, does not construct sentences like the spoken language of Spain. It is descended from the LSF Family and dates back to the 16th century. However, the Spanish alphabet, which was derived from the Latin alphabet, was adopted.
Sign Language in China
Chinese Sign Language is divided into two dialects: a southern dialect influenced by LSF and a northern dialect inspired by ASL. However, CSL is highly impacted by the spoken Chinese language.
Facial expressions, as well as hand and body motions, are used to convey information. Although the spelling is similar to Pinyin, Chinese fingerspelling predates it.
The origins of sign language in China can be traced back to 1887, when the first deaf school was created. Then, schools and farms with deaf people helped this sign language flourish and become what it is now.
Sign Language in Arabic
Arabic countries around the Middle East utilize Arabic Sign Language. Sentences are produced in the same way as Arabic is spoken. Some words were borrowed from Europe and America.
The context is indicated by the form and position of the hand. Facial expressions are used to improve comprehension and to clarify messages. Furthermore, most indicators are restricted to nouns and verbs.
Sign Language in South Africa
Although South African Sign Language is not the only manual language used in the country, it is being marketed as the major language.
ASL is also utilized in South Africa, and we can detect ASL’s effect on South African Sign Language. South Africa is one of the few countries that has an official sign language. They also have an official sign language school curriculum.
Verbs are usually signed last. Adjectives and adverbs are always placed after nouns and verbs. Signs do not change from one tense to another. The time indication at the beginning indicates the tenses. Even though South African Sign Language has norms, further research is needed to grasp the nuances of this language that has evolved over time.
There are hundreds of sign languages on the globe, each with its own characteristics. Deaf societies have worked for generations to express knowledge to the broader public, and through suffering, they have created alphabets and languages that are now known by many.