History of American Sign Language

Topics: Sign language, Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, American Sign Language Pages: 3 (1053 words) Published: May 23, 2012
American Sign Language can be almost considered nonexistent before the 1800’s. Although there was no standard language for deaf communication at that time, there were various signing systems that were used, which are now know as the Old American Sign Language. The Old American Sign Language is a relative of the modern American Sign Language. The history of American Sign Language is considered to have started by Dr. Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, a Minister from Hartford, Connecticut. Dr. Gallaudet’s neighbor had a deaf daughter, who despite being unable to hear or speak, was intelligent and he wanted to teach her a way to be able to communicate. Dr. Gallaudet wanted to teach her the most effective way to educating a deaf child; after inspiring and gaining support from the community, he had raised enough money to travel to Europe where he could study and learn the effective and proven methods of educating deaf children.

He traveled around England with little success at first, until he went to London, where he met Abbe Roche Ambroise Sicard, who was the head of the National Institute for the Deaf and Mutes in Paris. Sicard, at the time, was in London to present his theories about deaf education and to show his successful teaching methods of combining Old French Sign Language and sign’s developed by Abbe de L’Eppe. Dr. Gallaudet was stunned by what he learned in London. Sicard than extended an invitation to visit the National Institute in Paris. Although not immediately accepting, he ended up traveling to Paris to study under Sicard and 2 other accomplished deaf teachers, Jean Massieu and Laurent Clerc. At the Institute, Dr. Gallaudet attended daily classes where he studied their teaching methods and learned everything in private lessons from Clerc.

When Dr. Gallaudet started preparing to return to back to his hometown of Hartford, Connecticut; he asked Clerc to come back to the United States with him to aid in founding a school for the deaf in America. Clerc, being...

Cited: J. Deaf Stud. Deaf Educ. (Winter 2005) 10 (1): 3-37. Retrieved from http://jdsde.oxfordjournals.org/content/10/1/3.abstract
Sacks, O. (2000). Seeing voices: a journey into the world of the deaf. Berkeley, CA: Vintage Books.
Savitt, A. (2007, July 13). Evolution of a language: american sign language. Retrieved from http://www.lifeprint.com/asl101/topics/history6.htm
Tabak, J. (2006). Significant gestures: a history of american sign language. New York City: Praeger
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