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Variations in American Sign Language

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If you need further proof that language is always changing, look no further than American Sign Language or ASL. A hundred years ago, the sign for telephone reflected the shape of an old-fashioned candlestick phone — one fist below your mouth and the other at your ear. Now all it takes is curving the fingers of one hand next to your ear, as if holding a mobile. The signing space of individuals also varies in different dialects of sign language. In Black American Sign Language, for example, used primarily by African-Americans, one’s signing space is bigger than in ASL. For more on this topic, look for the work of American linguist Ceil Lucas, who has lectured extensively on sign language. This is part of a complete episode.

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