It’s no secret that the stamp of historic segregation is still seared into black and white Americans’ speech.
But it did surprise readers to learn a few years ago that a group of linguists and sign language experts had published a book and DVD – “The Hidden Treasure of Black ASL” (Gallaudet University Press) — describing the history and structure of a distinct form of signing they had identified among deaf African Americans.
When the Post published an article about Black ASL, it challenged many assumptions: Some people believed that sign language is universal — a kind of manual esperanto that would allow deaf users the world over to communicate across cultures.
Others thought of signing as manual translation of spoken language, so that English, American and Australian signers, for example, . . .