Do you know the origins of sign language? Basic sign language began in the early 17th century with Geronimo Bardano. The physician in Padua Italy told people that he could teach deaf people to understand written combinations of symbols and have them associate the symbols with the meaning and the object. The alphabet was first publicized in 1620 by Juan Pablo de Bonet.
Sign language continued to develop and later in the 18th century Charles Michel de L’Epee of Paris began the first school for the hearing impaired. The idea was that the individuals could be taught purely using sign language. He developed a way to communicate and have them communicate with others. There was a system of gestures, hand signs, and even finger spelling to get the point across. Most of the individuals taking the courses at the school were taught to first recognize the signs and then learn to make the signs themselves. This meant that they would learn the meaning, see the hand gesture written down and then learn how to formulate the basic sign.
About the same time there was Samuel Heinicke of Leipzig Germany trying to devise a method for signing as well. He did not use a manual method of communication though. Instead he taught speech and speech reading. In this case the student would learn how to read lips, formulate the words, and try to speak them. There were two methods for this way of communication in his school. He had the manual method and then the oral, which are the precursors to the sign language of today. It also allowed total communication rather than partial for the hearing impaired. Total communication is thought to be sign language, gesturing, finger spelling, speech reading, speech, hearing aids, reading, writing, and pictures.
It should also be mentioned that sign language can also be said to have come from the American Great Plains Indians. They also had a fairly extensive system for signing, it was one of their main methods of communication. Most often the Indians could hear, but they chose symbols and signs to communicate with other tribes that didn’t know their language. This is one of the reasons for the American Sign Language that exists – there are many signs that have originated from the Indians that are still used.