Deafumption: assuming one is Deaf

For the lack of a term for the phenomenon, Deafumption (2020) was coined by ASL instructor Jolanta Lapiak's level-200 ASL class to describe a phenomenon where one assumes the other to be Deaf. Often stories are funny.


One scenario that can happen in a Deaf community member's life is that when two friends were chatting in ASL. The third guy, who knew the Deaf friend but not the other guy, joined them in conversations. The Deaf friend introduced his friend to the new friend. A while later, the Deaf friend had to leave and said farewell. The two of them stayed and chatted. A while later, somehow one of them realized or discovered that his new friend was hearing and revealed that he was hearing, too. Both hearing men looked at each other and laughed at themselves for assuming each other that they were Deaf.

Another story: Sitting at a bar counter, the two men wrote notes back and forth, chatting, obviously because one of them was Deaf. A curious hearing person somehow joined them, writing back and forth with the two of them. As the time came, the Deaf guy had to leave and waved bye-bye. As he left, he turned around and looked back for the last time. He noticed that the two hearing guys were still writing to each other. It's still a mystery as to why the hearing person who chatted with the Deaf person alone kept writing back and forth.

Another common phenomenon, though, not funny but rather unfortunately audist, is that when a mother and her child talk in ASL. Sometimes, a hearing onlooker would contemplate or sometimes asks a Deaf mother if her child is Deaf. The Deaf mother would reply, no. It is the mother who is Deaf. There are Deaf parents, too. Many are great parents.

Those scenarios are not unusual but also not common. In Deaf culture, introductions often involve information about a new friend -- name, from where, and other relevant information, including hearing or deaf where context is required.

Enter a keyword in the field box below to search or filter the new topic list and click on the link.

New to sign language? "Where do I start?" or "How do I start learning sign language?" This ASL Rookie guide lists some selected links to the tutorials for ASL beginners to get started and keep rolling. It may be a useful review for intermediate-level learners and ASL students as well.

Some tutorial pages are a mix of free and premium versions. Access to premium content and links below are available in the PatronPlus subscription. More links/posts will be added from time to time.

Expressing needs and wants

  1. Making commands or requests

Talking about activities

  1. Frequency of time: how often?

Are you able to carry everyday conversations in ASL? Are you a student in the intermediate levels and beyond, who wishes to boost up your signing skills? You've come to the selected tutorial series. (Some premium content are available to PatronPlus membership.)

Stories, poems, performance arts, etc. in sign language.

This documentation project follows a child's language acquisition, literacy development, and phonological acquisition in sign language, specifically ASL, from newborn to age five in a natural native-ASL environment and visual culture.