For most deaf people in the United States, American Sign Language, or ASL--created by the deaf for themselves--is the natural, most expressive, and most comfortable form of communication. Linguists' studies over the past two decades have shown that ASL is a true and separate language, not modeled on any spoken language, fully capable of communicating complex ideas and information. But ASL "speaks" to the eyes, not the ears: meaning, emphasis and syntax are conveyed by particular hand and arm shapes and movements, facial expressions, and body postures. Names, and some English loanwords, are fingerspelled with the manual alphabet.
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