Sign language history: Ancient

In the beginning

1000 B.C.: Hebrew Law denies the rights of Deaf people.


384-322 B.C.: Ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle, pronounced that Deaf people could not be educated without hearing ("it is impossible to reason without the ability to hear"). He says, "Those who are born deaf all become senseless and incapable of reason."

427-347 B.C.: Ancient Greek philosopher Plato believes in his book "Plato's Cratylus" that all people were born with innate intelligence and it must be nurtured or developed. Without speech, deaf people had primitive thoughts.

Dark Age / Middle Age

345-550 AD: St. Augustine told early Christians that deafness is a punishment from God.

This kind of thinking dated back to the ancient Greek is a part of logocentrism and phonocentrism discussed by French philosopher Derrida (on speaking and writing). Phonocentrism is largely responsible for the struggles between hearing people (speech-centered education, language as central to speech) and deaf people (natural language-centered) on education, human rights, and so on since then.

Related links: Timeline: 16th century.