The Preservation of Sign Language

George Veditz

George Veditz (1861-1937) launched the project Preservation of Sign Language in 1913 at the National Association of the Deaf (U.S.) in response to the tragic aftermath of Milan 1880. It's the earliest record of ASL signing.

In 1880, oralist proponents at the conference (International Congress on Education of the Deaf) in Milan voted to ban sign language, which quickly spreaded the ban of sign language in education worldwide. It was a fear that sign language would become extinct.

"For the last 33 years, with eyes filled with tears and hearts broken, the French deaf people have watched this beautiful language of signs snatched away from their schools." -- Veditz, filmed ASL to English translation by Carol A. Padden.

In fear for the decline of sign language, the NAD produced a series of films Preservation of Sign Language from 1913 to 1920 which are the oldest filmed records of sign language. George W.Veditz, who was elected President of the NAD, presented a lecture in old ASL on film. The partial excerption below is a well known quote from his presentation:

The Famous Quote

The most quoted part of Veditz's message is as follows: "As long as we have deaf people on earth we will have signs."

"As long as we have deaf people on earth we will have signs, and as long as we have our films we can preserve our beautiful sign language in its original purity." -- Veditz (1913), translated from the film by Carol A. Padden.

An American Deaf artist Paul Scearce created an image below with the quote in si5s -- one of a few writing systems of ASL.

Veditz's quote in si5s writing system of ASL
Written by Paul Scearce (2013), using the si5s writing system

English translation: "As long as we have deaf people on earth, we will have signs. And as long as we have our films, we can preserve signs in their old purity. It is my hope that we will all love and guard our beautiful sign language as the noblest gift God has given to deaf people."

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