Contact between languages brings about variation and change. Situations of language contact are usually socially complex, making them of interest to sociolinguists. When speakers of different languages come together, the results are determined in large part by the economic and political power of the speakers of each language. In the United States, English became the popular language from coast to coast, largely replacing colonial French and Spanish and the languages of Native Americans. In the Caribbean and perhaps in British North America where slavery was practiced, Africans learned the English of their masters as best they could, creating a language for immediate and limited communication called a pidgin. When Africans forgot or were forbidden to use their African languages to communicate with one another, they developed their English pidgin into their native tongue. A language that develops from a pidgin into a native language is called a creole . African American Vernacular English may have developed this way.
Deaf communities are made up of deaf people and ASL signers (who may be hearing) and they can sometimes be very large and active communities. In some places, the deaf community has a long history of social and cultural activity including clubs, sports, theater in sign, and services to support the needs of Deaf people. Indeed, there may be a whole other world of deaf people for you to discover in your own community. You can see deaf actors on television, on the web and especially on YouTube where deaf people post videos in ASL. You can find old stories reflecting the history of deaf people and their culture on DVDs or on the web. In many of the same places, you can find modern adaptations of ASL in the form of poetry, narratives, and creative use of signing. Like all human languages, ASL is alive and always changing to meet the needs of communicating in the modern world. Whether language is in speech or sign, human beings seem to have a powerful ability to find ways to communicate and to identify closely with their language. Think about how valuable your language is to you. This is how deaf people feel about ASL.
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