Comparing Empatharian with ASL (American Sign Language)

ASL, known as American Sign Language, originated in the American School for the Deaf, founded by Thomas Gallaudet in Hartford, Connecticut in the year1817.  Gallaudet adopted the methods of the French Institut National de Jeunes Sourds de Paris and the French Sign Language .(LSF).   

Students came from all over New England at the time, where colloquial sign languages had developed, and these were merged with the LSF, forming a new language, ASL.   

Interestingly, English speaking countries around the world, including Britain and Australia, for two, have their own distinct sign languages, and do not understand the ASL.  And every other country also has their own sign languages, Indian sign languages, African sign languages, which developed over the centuries in order to connect and communicate between different territories with different verbal languages.

International Language

Now, according to Wikipedia, ASL is sometimes used as an international language systematically functioning to make communication possible between groups of people who don’t speak the same language.  ASL has spread overseas with a number of closely related sign languages derived from ASL:  Bolivia, Malaysia, and West Africa being a few. However these sign languages have evolved to be different from ASL, and some are completely different at this point.

Empatharian is especially designed to be an international non-verbal language of gestures, a sign language that everyone around the world can understand and do, no matter their origin or country, using English language style syntax and grammar.

Expressiveness of the Language

As anyone can see watching an ASL interpreter, ASL, while primarily hand movements, also includes movement of the eyebrows, the cheeks, the nose, the head, the torso, and the eyes.

 ASL users actually have a very distinct culture, and interact more expressively when they do their non-verbal talk. Their facial expressions and hand movements seem to reflect what they are communicating. They also have their own sentence structure, which sets the language apart.

Empatharian is likewise an expressive non-verbal language, though facial expression is not necessary to be understood.  Feelings and emotions are expressed when doing Empatharian, expressed through the body, the arms, torso and head positions and hand positions.


However,ASL is not completely iconically self-explanatory, a transparent imitation of what is meant, or a pantomime.  In fact, many signs bear no resemblance to their referent because they were originally arbitrary symbols, or their iconicity has been obscured over time. Even so, in ASL iconicity plays a significant role; a high percentage of signs resemble their referents in some way. That may be because the medium of sign, three-dimensional space, naturally allows more iconicity than oral language.

Empatharian strives to be a language that is primarily iconic, being understood instinctively and intuitively when seen. For this reason, Empatharian is an evolving language and will no doubt eventually include many of the iconic signs used in ASL. However, Empatharian uses English language grammar and syntax, which is different from ASL. ASL grammar and syntax more resembles French or Latin languages.

Beyond Words

Because Empatharian is whole body movement, it is a whole body embodiment of a positive way of thinking, and a healthy way of moving. It becomes a body-mind-spirit connection that helps neurological development, helps posture, breathing, and the health of all the organs.

Empatharian was created originally by Tammy Narena in 1956, and named at that time Telesymbols. Her daughter, Lolo Lesser, has brought the Empatharian Movement for Peace to the public eye, in order to help seed the dreams and aspirations for World Peace and Harmony that her mother nurtured. Being used for international communication, to promote trade and cultural exchange, to promote the arts, and provide inspiration for betterment, has always been Tammy Narena’s purpose with the work she created. Now, Empatharian takes on an even larger aim: for a world community of friendship, for health, for education, and for spiritual unity through fun cultural exchanges.

ASL and the community it fosters can be a model for the new modes of communicating that we imagine in the wider world with Empatharian.

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