Hawaiʻi Sign Language (HSL), also known as Old Hawaiʻi Sign Language and Pidgin Sign Language (PSL), is an indigenous sign language used in Hawaiʻi. Although historical records document its presence on the islands as early as the 1820s, it was not formally recognized until 2013 by linguists at the University of Hawai'i. It is the first new language to be uncovered within the United States since the 1930s. Linguistic experts believe HSL may be the last undiscovered language in the country.
Although previously believed to be related to American Sign Language (ASL), the two languages are in fact unrelated. The initial research team interviewed 19 Deaf people and two children of Deaf parents on four islands. It was found that eighty percent of HSL vocabulary is different from American Sign Language, proving that HSL is an independent language. Additionally, there is a HSL-ASL creole, Creole Hawai'i Sign Language (CHSL) which is used by approximately 40 individuals in the generations between those who signed HSL exclusively and those who sign ASL exclusively. However, since the 1940s ASL has almost fully replaced the use of HSL on the islands of Hawai'i  and CHSL is likely to also be lost in the next 50 years.
Prior to the recognition of HSL as a distinct language in 2013, it was an undocumented language. HSL is at risk of extinction due to its low number of signers and the adoption of ASL. With fewer than 30 signers remaining worldwide, HSL is considered critically endangered. Without documentation and revitalization efforts, such as the ongoing efforts initiated by Dr. James Woodward, Dr. Barbara Earth, and Linda Lambrecht, this language may become dormant or extinct.
|Hawaiʻi Sign Language|
|Hoailona ʻŌlelo o Hawaiʻi|
|Native to||United States|
|30; virtually extinct; a few elderly signers are bilingual with the dominant ASL  (2013)|
HSL was recognized by linguists on March 1, 2013 by a research group from the University of Hawai'i at Manoa. The research team found a letter from Reverend Hiram Bingham to Reverend Thomas H. Gallaudet from Feb. 23, 1821. The letter described several instances of Deaf natives communicating to Bingham in their own sign language. At the time of discovery, the language was used by around 40 people, mostly over 80-years-old.
HSL is not itself a pidgin, but alternate names for the language are documented as Hawai'i Pidgin Sign Language or Pidgin Sign Language. This is due to an inaccurate historical association with the spoken language Hawaiʻi Pidgin. Linguists who have begun to document the language and community members prefer the name Hawaiʻi Sign Language, and that is the name used for it in ISO 639-3 as of 2014.
Village sign use, by both d/Deaf and hearing, is attested from 1820. There's the possibility of influence from immigrant sign later that century, though HSL has little in common today with ASL or other signed and spoken languages it has come in contact with. The establishment of a school for the deaf in 1914 strengthened the use of sign, primarily HSL, among the students. A Deaf community hero, a Chinese-Hawai'ian Deaf man named Edwin Inn, taught HSL to other d/Deaf adults and also stood as president of a Deaf club. However, the introduction of ASL in 1941 in place of purely oral instruction resulted in a shift from HSL.
HSL shares few lexical and grammatical components with ASL. While HSL follows subject, object, verb (SOV) typology, ASL follows subject, verb, object (SVO) typology. HSL does not have verbal classifiers- these were previously thought to be universal in sign languages, and ASL makes extensive use of these. HSL also has several entirely non-manual lexical items, including verbs and nouns, which are not typical in ASL. Ongoing investigation of these languages suggest that they are not related.
An estimated 15,857 of the total 833,610 residents of Hawai'i (about 1.9%) are audiologically deaf. Among this population, ASL is now significantly more common than HSL. There are a handful of services available to help d/Deaf Hawai'ian residents learn ASL and also for those who wish to learn ASL to become interpreters, such as the Aloha State Association of the Deaf and the American Sign Language Interpreter Education Program. Equivalent services for HSL are nearly non-existent, partially because some members of the Deaf community in Hawai'i have felt that it is not worth preservation.
Linda Lambrecht, Dr. James Woodward and Barbara Clark are continually working with a team to document and preserve the language. Another research member, Dr. Samantha Rarrick, is part of the Sign Language Documentation Training Center at the University of Hawai'i. This group has two goals. Their first goal to teach graduate students and other linguists how to document HSL and other small sign languages used in Hawai'i. Their second goal is to have 20-hours of translated-HSL on video. As of Nov. 22, 2016, a dictionary and video archive of speakers have been created.
The Arabic language is the fastest-growing foreign language taught at U.S. colleges and universities, a trend mirrored at the University of Iowa.Arabic in 2006 became the 10th most-studied language in the United States.In 2013, Arabic was ranked the 8th place on the list of enrollments in higher education in the USA.Chinese language and varieties in the United States
Chinese languages, mostly Cantonese, are collectively the third most-spoken language in the United States, and are mostly spoken within Chinese-American populations and by immigrants or the descendants of immigrants, especially in California and New York. Over 2 million Americans speak varieties of Chinese, with Mandarin becoming increasingly common due to immigration from mainland China and to some extent Taiwan. Despite being called dialects or varieties, Cantonese, Taishanese, and Mandarin etc. are not mutually intelligible. When asked census forms and surveys, respondents will only answer with "Chinese".According to data reported on the 2000 US Census long-form, 259,750 people spoke "Cantonese", with 58.62% percent residing in California and the next most with 16.19% in New York. The actual number of Cantonese speakers was probably higher. In the 1982-83 school year, 29,908 students in California were reported to be using Cantonese as their primary home language. Approximately 16,000 of these students were identified as limited English proficient (LEP).According to data reported on the 2000 US Census long-form, 84,590 people spoke "Taiwanese Hokkien". The county with the most Hokkien speakers was Los Angeles County with 21,990 (0.250% of County population) followed by Orange County with 5,855 (0.222% of County population). The county with the highest percentage of Hokkien speakers was Calhoun County, Texas at 0.845% (160) followed by Fort Bend County, Texas at 0.286% (935) and Los Angeles County, California. According to data collected from 2005-2009 by the American Community Survey, 76,822 people spoke Taiwanese Hokkien.In New York City, although Standard Mandarin Chinese is spoken as a native language among only ten percent of Chinese speakers, it is used as a secondary dialect and is replacing Cantonese as their lingua franca. In addition, immigration from Fujian, particularly Fuzhou is bringing an increasingly large number of Eastern Min speakers. Wu varieties like Shanghainese and Suzhounese, and the mutually unintelligible Wenzhounese are now spoken by a minority of recent Chinese immigrants hailing from Jiangsu, Zhejiang, and Shanghai.Although Chinese Americans grow up learning English, some teach their children Chinese for a variety of reasons including preservation of an ancient civilization, preservation of a unique identity, pride in their cultural ancestry, desire for easy communication with them and other relatives, and the perception that Chinese will be a useful language as China's economic strength increases. Cantonese, historically the language of most Chinese immigrants, was the third most widely spoken non-English language in the United States in 2004. Many Chinese schools have been established to accomplish these goals. Most of them have classes only once a week on the weekends, however especially in the past there have been schools that met every day after normal school.
A 2006 survey by the Modern Language Association found that Chinese accounted for 3% of foreign language class enrollment in the United States, making it the seventh most commonly learned foreign languages in the United States. Most Chinese as foreign language classes teach simplified characters and Standard Mandarin Chinese.
About 40% of all Chinese-speakers in the United States live in California.Gokana language
Gokana (Gòkánà) is an Ogoni language spoken by some 130,000 people in Rivers State, Nigeria.Henniker Sign Language
Henniker Sign Language was a village sign language of 19th-century Henniker, New Hampshire and surrounding villages in the US. It was one of three local languages which formed the basis of American Sign Language. Although the number of students from Henniker were fewer than speakers of the more famous Martha's Vineyard Sign Language, deafness in Henniker was genetically dominant, and Henniker SL was therefore likely to have been better developed than MVSL. (See village sign language.)Italian language in the United States
The Italian language has been a widely spoken language in the United States of America for more than one hundred years, due to large-scale immigration beginning in the late 19th century. Today it is the eighth most spoken language in the country.Keresan Sign Language
Keresan Sign Language, also known as Keresan Pueblo Indian Sign Language (KPISL) or Keresign, is a village sign language spoken by many of the inhabitants of a Keresan pueblo with a relatively high incidence of congenital deafness (the pueblo is not identified in sources, but the cited population suggests it is Zia Pueblo).
Keresan Sign Language developed locally, and is unrelated to the trade language Plains Indian Sign Language.Languages of Illinois
The official language of Illinois is English. Nearly 80% of the population speak English natively, and most others speak it fluently as a second language. The forms of American English spoken in Illinois range from Inland Northern near Chicago and the northern part of the state, to Midland and Southern dialects further downstate. Illinois has speakers of many other languages, of which Spanish is by far the most widespread. Illinois's indigenous languages disappeared when the Indian population was deported under the policy of Indian Removal.Languages of the United States
The most commonly used language in the United States is English (specifically, American English), which is the de facto national language. Nonetheless, many other languages are also spoken, or historically have been spoken, in the United States. These include indigenous languages, languages brought to the country by colonists, enslaved people and immigrants from Europe, Africa and Asia. There are also several languages, including creoles and sign languages, that developed in the United States. Approximately 430 languages are spoken or signed by the population, of which 176 are indigenous to the area. Fifty-two languages formerly spoken in the country's territory are now extinct.Based on annual data from the American Community Survey (ACS), the U.S. Census Bureau regularly publishes information on the most common languages spoken at home. It also reports the English speaking ability of people who speak a language other than English at home. In 2015, the U.S. Census Bureau published information on the number of speakers of over 350 languages as surveyed by the ACS from 2009 to 2013, but it does not regularly tabulate and report data for that many languages.
According to the ACS in 2016, the most common languages spoken at home by people aged five years of age or older are as follows (the most recent data can be found via the U.S. Census Bureau's American Fact-finder):
English only – 229.7 million
Spanish – 40.5 million
Chinese (including Mandarin and Cantonese) – 3.4 million
Tagalog (including Filipino) – 1.7 million
Vietnamese – 1.5 million
Arabic – 1.2 million
French – 1.2 million
Korean – 1.1 million
Russian – 0.91 million
German – 0.91 million
Haitian Creole – 0.86 million
Hindi – 0.81 million
Portuguese – 0.77 million
Italian – 0.58 million
Polish – 0.54 million
Urdu – 0.47 million
Japanese – 0.46 million
Persian (including Farsi and Dari) – 0.44 million
Gujarati – 0.41 million
Telugu – 0.37 million
Bengali – 0.32 million
Tai–Kadai (including Thai and Lao) – 0.31 million
Greek – 0.29 million
Punjabi – 0.29 million
Tamil – 0.27 million
Armenian – 0.24 million
Serbo-Croatian (including Bosnian, Croatian, Montenegrin, and Serbian) – 0.24 million
Hebrew – 0.23 million
Hmong – 0.22 million
Bantu (including Swahili) – 0.22 million
Khmer – 0.20 million
Navajo – 0.16 millionThe ACS is not a full census but an annual sample-based survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau. The language statistics are based on responses to a three-part question asked about all members of a target U.S. household who are at least five years old. The first part asks if they "speak a language other than English at home." If so, the head of household or main respondent is asked to report which language each member speaks in the home, and how well each individual speaks English. It does not ask how well individuals speak any other language of the household. Thus, some respondents might have only a limited speaking ability of that language. In addition, it is difficult to make historical comparisons of the numbers of speakers because language questions used by the U.S. Census changed numerous times before 1980.The ACS does not tabulate the number of people who report the use of American Sign Language at home, so such data must come from other sources. While modern estimates indicate that American Sign Language was signed by as many as 500,000 Americans in 1972 (the last official survey of sign language), estimates as recently as 2011 were closer to 100,000. Various cultural factors, such as passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, have resulted in far greater educational opportunities for hearing-impaired children, which could double or triple the number of current users of American Sign Language.Martha's Vineyard Sign Language
Martha's Vineyard Sign Language (MVSL) was a village sign-language that was once widely used on the island of Martha's Vineyard from the early 18th century to 1952. It was used by both deaf and hearing people in the community; consequently, deafness did not become a barrier to participation in public life. Deaf people who spoke Martha's Vineyard Sign Language were extremely independent. They participated in society as typical citizens, although there were incidents of discrimination, and language barriers.
The language was able to thrive because of the unusually high percentage of deaf islanders and because deafness was a recessive trait, which meant that almost anyone might have both deaf and hearing siblings. In 1854, when the island's deaf population peaked, the United States national average was one deaf person in about 5,730, while on Martha's Vineyard it was one in 155. In the town of Chilmark, which had the highest concentration of deaf people on the island, the average was 1 in 25; at one point, in a section of Chilmark called Squibnocket, as much as 1 in 4 of the population of 60 was deaf.Sign language on the island declined when the population migrated to the mainland. There are no fluent signers of MVSL today. Katie West, the last deaf person born into the island's sign-language tradition, died in 1952, though there were a few elderly residents still able to recall MVSL when researchers started examining the language in the 1980s. Linguists are working to save the language, but their task is difficult because they cannot experience MVSL firsthand.Miami accent
The Miami accent is an evolving American English accent or sociolect spoken in South Florida, particularly in Miami-Dade county, originating from central Miami. The Miami accent is most prevalent in American-born Hispanic youth who live in the Greater Miami area.Navajo Family Sign
Navajo Family Sign is a sign language used by a small deaf community of the Navajo People.Pacific Northwest English
Pacific Northwest English (also known, in American linguistics, as Northwest English) is a variety of North American English spoken in the U.S. states of Washington and Oregon, sometimes also including Idaho and the Canadian province of British Columbia. Current studies remain inconclusive about whether Pacific Northwest English is a dialect of its own, separate from Western American English or even California English or Standard Canadian English, with which it shares its major phonological features. The dialect region contains a highly diverse and mobile population, which is reflected in the historical and continuing development of the variety.Pennsylvania Dutch English
Pennsylvania Dutch English is a dialect of English that has been influenced by the Pennsylvania German language. It is largely spoken in South Central Pennsylvania, both by people who are monolingual (in English) and bilingual (in Pennsylvania German and English). The dialect has been dying out, as non-Amish younger Pennsylvania Germans tend to speak modern General American English. Very few non-Amish members of these people can speak the Pennsylvania German language, although most know some words and phrases. The World War II Generation was the last generation in which Pennsylvania Dutch was widely spoken outside the Old Order Amish and Old Order Mennonite communities.Plateau Sign Language
Plateau Sign Language, or Old Plateau Sign Language, is a poorly attested, extinct sign language historically used across the Columbian Plateau. The Crow Nation introduced Plains Sign Talk, which replaced Plateau Sign Language among the eastern nations that used it (the Coeur d’Alene, Sanpoil, Okanagan, Thompson, Lakes, Shuswap, and Coleville), with western nations shifting instead to Chinook Jargon.Russian language in the United States
The Russian language is among the top fifteen most spoken languages in the United States. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, many Russians have migrated to the United States and brought the language with them. Most Russian speakers in the United States today are Russian Jews. According to the 2010 United States Census the number of Russian speakers was 854,955, which made Russian the 12th most spoken language in the country.Sandy River Valley Sign Language
Sandy River Valley Sign Language was a village sign language of the 19th-century Sandy River Valley in Maine. Together with the more famous Martha's Vineyard Sign Language and Henniker Sign Language, it was one of three local languages which formed the basis of American Sign Language.
The deaf communities in the valley developed in some of the 30 villages founded by settlers from Martha's Vineyard. However, it is not clear whether MVSL itself was transmitted, or if the chain was broken and a new sign language was created once a substantial deaf population was established.Western American English
Western American English (also known as Western U.S. English) is a variety of American English that largely unites the entire western half of the United States as a single dialect region, including the states of California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming. It also generally encompasses Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana, some of whose speakers are classified additionally under Pacific Northwest English.
The West was the last area in the United States to be reached during the gradual westward expansion of English-speaking settlement and its history shows considerable mixing and leveling of the linguistic patterns of other regions. As the settlement populations are relatively young when compared with other regions, the American West is a dialect region in formation. According to the 2006 Atlas of North American English, as a very broad generalization, Western U.S. accents are differentiated from Southern U.S. accents in maintaining (the PRIZE vowel) as a diphthong, from Northern U.S. accents by fronting (the GOOSE vowel), and from both by most consistently showing the cot–caught merger.
Languages in italics are extinct.
(number of speakers
in 2010 in millions)
^a Sign-language names reflect the region of origin. Natural sign languages are not related to the spoken language used in the same region. For example, French Sign Language originated in France, but is not related to French. ^b Denotes the number (if known) of languages within the family. No further information is given on these languages.