Historical Contexts of Sign Languages

16th Century

1521

"Rudolf Agricola, a Dutch humanist, believed that the Deaf could communicate via writing. He advocated the theory that the ability of speech was seperate from the ability of thought. He wrote De Inventione Dialectica." -- Gallaudet University Archives

1501--

Geronimo Cardano, a physician of Padua, northern Italy, proclaimed that deaf people could learn and understandas well as the ability to reason via signed communication and writing.
Butterworth, et al., 1995

"In France, a Spanish alphabet of the 16th century was embodied through the labours of Pereira and his deaf pupil Saboureaux de Fontenay, from the original work of the Benedictine monk, Pedro Ponce de Leon (1520-84)." (Cristhley, p. 33)

"Rather earlier the way was prepared by the teachings of Jerome Cardano (1501-75), who rebelled against the current acceptance of Aristotle's teaching, that connected thought was impossible without speech." (Critchley, p. 33)

17th Century

Juan Pablo de Bonet published the first book on teaching sign language to deaf people that contained the manual alphabet in 1620. -- Butterworth, et al., 1995 Though, sign language was already instinctively developed by deaf signers.

18th Century / Romantic Period of Art (1780-1850)

Abbe L'Epee

Abbe Charles Michel de L'Epee

Abbe Charles Michel de L'Epee of Paris founded the first public school for deaf people in 1760. He demonstrated that deaf people could develop communication with themselves and the hearing world through a system of conventional gestures, hand signs, and fingerspelling. He first recognized and learned the signs that were already being used by deaf people in Paris and developed his sign system. He added a signed version of spoken French.
Butterworth, et al., 1995

Critchley (p. 33) noted that Charles Michel (the Abbe de l'Epee, 1712-89) opened the school for the deaf in Paris in 1759.

"A prominent deaf educator, Samuel Heinicke (1778) of Leipzig, Germany established the first public school for deaf people that achieved government recognition. He did not use the manual method of communication but taught speech and speechreading. These two methods (manual and oral) were the forerunners of today's concept of total communication. Total communication espouses the use of all means of available communication, such as sign language, gesturing, fingerspelling, speechreading, speech, hearing aids, reading, writing, and pictures."
Butterworth, et al., 1995

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