This course introduces students to the fundamentals of American Sign Language (ASL), the principal system of manual communication among American deaf people. Not to be confused with Signed English (to which a certain amount of comparative attention is given) or with other artificially developed systems, ASL is a conceptual language and not merely encoded or fingerspelled English. As such, while to some extent influenced by English, depending on the individual signer, it presents its own grammar and structure, involving such elements as topicalization, spatial indexing, directionality, classification, and syntactic body language. By the end of the semester, students should have learned between 700 and 800 conceptual signs and their use. They will also have been introduced to aspects of American deaf culture--sociology, psychology, education, and theater--through a variety of readings and discussions.