Did you know that sign language isn’t actually as old as you think? American Sign Language is actually a fairly recent established language, used by hearing-impaired individuals all over the world. In today’s blog, Akorbi discusses 5 interesting facts you may not have known about sign language.
Sign Language Was Formally Developed in 17th Century Europe
While there are many records of sign language as early as 60 A.D., sign language wasn’t formally created until about the 17th century. Charles Michel de l’Eppe, who was a French priest, was one of the first advocates for deaf rights. In 1755, he established the original public school for deaf children called Institution Nationale des Sourds-Muets à Paris (National Institute for Deaf-Mutes in Paris). It led to l’Epee being referred to as the ‘Father of the Deaf,’ and the school became known all over the world.
Different Countries Have Different Sign Languages
Sign language isn’t universal and there are actually many different versions of it. American Sign Language (ASL) is actually one of many versions of sign language developed over the years. The first version was invented in France and called French Sign Language (FSL). Today, there are many versions of sign language, each with their own unique signs and quirks like all languages have.
Sign Language Originally Only Contained the Basic Alphabet
l’Eppe’s school originally only taught the basic alphabet. He learned that his students all had unique signs that they used at home to communicate certain words or ideas without using the entire alphabet. l’Eppe adapted these signs along with his manual alphabet and created a sign language dictionary. This standardized sign language is now referred to as Old French Sign Language and it quickly spread across Europe and to the United States.
Facial Expressions Are Important When Signing
Even though deaf people sign with their hands, facial expressions are just as important as hand movements when communicating. When hearing individuals use tone and rhythm to represent a current mood or feeling when speaking, deaf people do a similar thing except with their facial expressions. Someone who is “listening” to a deaf person speak will most often pay attention to the signer’s hands and mouth to pick up on language cues.
The First Deaf School in America Was Established in Connecticut
In 1817, Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, a Yale graduate, met Dr. Mason Cogswell and his deaf daughter, Alice. After learning about Alice’s story, they embarked on a voyage to Europe to learn the art of educating deaf children. Gallaudet went on to enlist the help of Laurent Clerc, a talented deaf teacher graduated from l’Eppe’s school, to establish the first permanent school for the deaf in the United States. Today, it’s known as the American School for the Deaf, formerly known as Gallaudet University, in Hartford, Connecticut.
Related Post: Famous People Associated With American Sign Language
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