Sign language history: 20th Century


Preservation of Sign Language, 1913

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. 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.

World Games for the Deaf + Gestuno

1924: Comite International des Sports des Sourds (CISS) was founded in Paris on August 16th during the first World Games for the Deaf held in Paris, France on August 10th to 17th, with six nations - Belgium, Czechoslovakia, France, Great Britain, Holland, and Poland - participating in the competitions in Athletics, Cycling, Football (Soccer), Shooting and Swimming. (CISS Handbook 1975-85) The Gestuno (now International Sign) that was developed and used by Deaf Signers at this first international sports event and is continued to use till today.


1951: The First World Congress of the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) took place in Rome, Italy, with participants from 25 countries. The Deaf were able to discuss and decide on the Constitution in Gestuno (now International Sign). (WFD) The International Sign and English are the official languages of the WFD.

The birth of ASL linguistics

1960: William Stokoe (United States) presented his findings about sign language in a groundbreaking paper Sign Language Structure in 1960 that it is a natural, true language. However, it did not attract much attention until 1965.

Linguistic Principles

1965: Stokoe republished Dictionary of American Sign Language on Linguistic Principles in 1965. He founded the journal Sign Language Studies in 1972. William Stokoe (1919-2000) is a renowned linguistics pioneer of American Sign Language (ASL) and is considered the "father of ASL linguistics" by the ASL community.

National Theatre of the Deaf

The National Theatre of the Deaf (U.S.) was founded. English-speaking and Ameslan/ASL actors work together in performances for mixed hearing and eyeing/deaf people.

Related posts

Related links: Timeline: 1970s.