Deaf and Hard of Hearing Canada
                     Home    D&HH Culture    About us    Contact us   Links

History of sign language and oral  (<- click Back home)
The written history of sign language began in the 17th century in Spain. In 1620, Juan Pablo Bonet published Reducción de las letras y arte para enseñar a hablar a los mudos (‘Reduction of letters and art for teaching mute people to speak’) in Madrid. It is considered the first modern treaty of Phonetics and Logopedia, setting out a method of oral education for the deaf people by means of the use of manual signs, in form of a manual alphabet to improve the communication of the dumb or deaf people.  

From the language of signs of Bonet, Charles-Michel de l'Épée published his alphabet in the 18th century, which has arrived basically unchanged until the present time.  

In 1755, Abbé de l'Épée founded the first public school for deaf children in Paris; Laurent Clerc was arguably its most famous graduate. He went to the United States with Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet to found the American School for the Deaf in Hartford, Connecticut.Gallaudet's son, Edward Miner Gallaudet founded the first college for the deaf in 1857, which in 1864 became Gallaudet University in Washington , DC , the only liberal arts university for the deaf in the world.  

Generally, each spoken language has a sign language counterpart in as much as each linguistic population will contain Deaf members who will generate a sign language. In much the same way that geographical or cultural forces will isolate populations and lead to the generation of different and distinct spoken languages, the same forces operate on signed languages and so they tend to maintain their identities through time in roughly the same areas of influence as the local spoken languages. This occurs even though sign languages have no relation to the spoken languages of the lands in which they arise. There are notable exceptions to this pattern, however, as some geographic regions sharing a spoken language have multiple, unrelated signed languages. Variations within a 'national' sign language can usually be correlated to the geographic location of residential schools for the deaf.  

International Sign, formerly known as Gestuno, is used mainly at international Deaf events such as the Deaflympics and meetings of the World Federation of the Deaf. Recent studies claim that while International Sign is a kind of a pidgin, they conclude that it is more complex than a typical pidgin and indeed is more like a full signed language.