Who Invented Sign Language?

No one can really pinpoint who invented sign language. According to history, there is no particular known creator of the sign language. Rather, it was more a mixture of various cultures from different countries that had influenced the emergence and promulgation of the sign language through the years.

The Early Cavemen Years
But then, if you would think about it, early cavemen years may have been the starting point of this particular language. Our forefathers may be given the credit as the first ones who invented sign language from their use of hand gestures and facial expressions to express what they want to say. Grunts and sighs were also used to further convey the meaning of their non-verbal statements.

The Contributions of France
But in was in 1620 that sign language became more useful and easy to use. This was when Juan Pablo de Bonet made the first sign language book to teach deaf people which was based in an earlier work by an Italian physician named Girolamo Cardano who was known to have created a particular code for teaching deaf people.

In the pages of this book , you would see a manual alphabet system which anyone can use easily. There were photos of hands forming shapes to represent the different speech sounds to be learned.

In the year 1755, the first free public school was built for teaching the deaf. This was founded by Abbe Charles Michel de L’Epee in Paris.

The school used a particular system for its sign language that was actually a mixture of variations from L’Epee’s observations of the deaf children who attended the school. From this, the founder was able to create a certain standard for the language which included hand signs, gestures, and finger-spelling.

That standard system that was used in the school for deaf later became officially recognized as the language for deaf in the country, and is used not only in France but also in Europe.

The Influences of America
Sign language finally arrived in the United States. This was when Laurent Clerc, a European who taught signing mainly in Europe, established and opened the doors of the first American school for the deaf with Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet. This was opened in 1817 in Hartford, Connecticut.

The manner of teaching that they used came from Clerc’s French signing and the rural signing variations of the children who came to the school. From this, the American Sign Language emerged.

However, there were arguments that came up that said that it was actually Martha’s Vineyard, which has a large community of deaf people in Massachusetts that had made more influence on the American Sign Language than the language system that Clerc brought from Europe.

It was written that during the 17th century hereditary deafness was prevalent throughout the land that this community had to come up and develop a particular system of signing that they can use. And some of the children who later attended Clerc’s and Gallaudet’s school for the deaf came from this community and had brought this particular version to the school.

From these early influences and contributions, many deaf people had flourished and had a better time communicating with others. Thanks and credit may be given, then, to our forefathers during the early cavemen years for the early traces of sign language that have evolved through the years even though it may still make many wonder if we can say that the cavemen are really the ones who invented sign language.