3 Forms of Sign Language: ASL vs. PSE vs. SEE

There are three major forms of Sign Language currently used in the United States: American Sign (ASL), Pidgin Signed English (PSE), and Signed Exact English (SEE).

American Sign Language (ASL)

ASL is used by many deaf in the United States, thus its use promotes assimilation into the Deaf Community. ASL is a visual language, and speech-reading or listening skills are not needed to learn ASL fluently. Because of its visual nature, ASL is very graphic, and understanding of concepts can be promoted more easily. It has developed over time through usage by deaf individuals and is a free-flowing, natural language. ASL is a language complete in itself. It is not usually written or spoken, but can be translated, just like French or German, to English and vice versa. ASL has it’s own syntax and grammar. It does count as a language credit at University level, because it is a separate language. ASL usually follows the TIME + TOPIC + COMMENT structure.

Pidgin Signed English (PSE) or Signed English

PSE is probably the most widely used communication mode in the United States among deaf and hearing persons who work with them. Many teachers use PSE or Signed English. The vocabulary is drawn from ASL but follows English word order. Words that do not carry information (e.g. to, the, am, etc.) are often dropped, as are the word endings of English (e.g. -ed, -s, -ment, etc.). This means that the signer can easily speak while signing, since it is possible to keep pace with spoken English. It is simpler to learn than ASL or SEE, since one does not need to include all English endings, nor does one to master the structure or idioms of ASL.

Signing Exact English (SEE)

SEE is based upon signs drawn from ASL and expanded with words, prefixes, tenses, and endings to give a clear and complete visual presentation of English. The ASL sign for the concept of “pretty, lovely, beauty, beautiful” and other such synonyms is retained for beauty, initialized with P for pretty, L for lovely, and the suffix -ful is added for beautiful. The child thus has an opportunity to develop an expanded vocabulary. The learning of this English based sign system may be more comfortable for English-speaking parents. Maximum use of residual hearing and speech-reading is encouraged since the signs match the elements of spoken English. SEE encourages the incorporation of ASL features to show intonation visually. SEE does require more signing time that PSE, because of the word endings and prefixes, etc. Over-concentration on signing every word may lead to “colorless” signing.

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About signsoflifeasl

Ashley and Taylor aim to bridge the gap between the Hearing World and the Deaf World by creating awareness of Deaf Culture and teaching sign language through written word as well as signed videos (captioned for the signing-impaired.) Using humor and fun, Ashley and Taylor hope to make learning a new language and culture a fantastic experience for everyone! Ashley is a deaf individual whose major is in Communication with a double emphasis in Public Relations and Organization Communication. She is a double minor in Psychology and Human Development. For Grad School, she plans to get her Masters degree in Social Work and hopes to advocate for deaf and hard of hearing individuals. Ashley is fluent in written and spoken English, as well as ASL and written German. She is the President of the Sign Language Club at her college. Taylor is a Hearing individual who is thinking about becoming a Special Education Teacher for young children. Her mother is an interpreter and Taylor has grown up learning about ASL and deaf culture, and is currently learning sign from both Ashley and her mother.
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7 Responses to 3 Forms of Sign Language: ASL vs. PSE vs. SEE

  1. it is also important to note… PSE and SEE do not actually help Deaf kids learn to read or write when used as a “language” A teaching tool they can help, but when used as the primary form of communication, they do not actually help deaf kids learn to read and wright.

  2. I am going to do some additional research about this, because from what I understand, SEE and PSE can indeed help a deaf children learn to read and write better. But perhaps I’ve misunderstood your comment and what you are trying to say. I hope I’ve interpreted what you said correctly.

    • When used as a main communication method… SEE does not actually help deaf children learn to read and write. They need a solid base in actual language, which SEE and PSE are not. SEE is actually a modality of English, but does not actually represent a full language. ASL is a full language. SEE helps children understand sentence structure of English, but as an every day communication method, it is too cumbersome and does not actually give full access to language.
      When used as a main communication method, SEE can actually hinder true language development, as many people who use SEE actually revert to PSE, which is not a language at all. It is called Pigeon Sign for a reason… It mimics ASL and English, but is not at all a language, or a modality of English. To learn another language, people must have a solid foundation on a language, deaf kids who know ASL as their main language then are taught English through reading and writing can benefit from the use of SEE at those specific times, but it was never designed to actually be used as a main communication tool, only to assist in English proficiency, and during times that English is being taught.
      Does that clear things up?

  3. Pingback: Without words | creativetidalwave

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