Language and Linguistics

Sign language with origin and classification/source/oral language

Sign Language

 Sign language is a natural language of expression and gestural-spatial configuration and visual perception (or even tactile by certain people with deaf blindness), thanks to which deaf people can establish a communication channel with their social environment, whether made up of other deaf individuals or anyone who knows the sign language used. While with oral language communication is established in a vocal-auditory channel, sign language does so through a gesture-visual-spatial channel. Sign language with origin and classification

Definitions of Sign

  • Note, sign, or gesture to convey something or come to know it.
  • That which in concert is determined between two or more people to understand each other.
  • Sign or means that is used to later remember something.
  • Vestige that remains of something and remembers it.
  • Indication of someone’s place and address.
  • Characteristic features of a person that allow distinguishing it from others.
  • State your individual circumstances; Describe them in a way that can be distinguished from something else.
  • Explain, make yourself understood through gestures.

Origin of sign languages

The history of sign language is as old as that of mankind. In fact, it has been and continues to be used by listening communities. For example, the Amerindians of the Great Plains region of North America used sign language to make themselves understood among ethnic groups speaking different languages, and this system was in use long after the European conquest. Another example is the case of a unique tribe in which the majority of its members were deaf due to inheritance. Then, sign language was used that became in general use, also among listeners, until the beginning of the 20th century. However, there are no documentary references to these languages ​​before the 17th century. Sign language with origin and classification

One of the first written documents dealing with sign languages ​​is Plato’s Cratylus, where he says that if we had neither the tongue nor the voice, we would try to communicate, like the mute, through signs of the hand, the head, and whole body.

During the Middle Ages, sign language was mainly used in abbeys by monks. In the 16th century, Pedro Ponce de León, a Spanish Benedictine monk considered the first “teacher for the deaf” created a school for the deaf in the San Salvador monastery in Oña (Castilla y León). It used a manual alphabet based on the monastic sign languages ​​used by monks who had taken a vow of silence.

In 1620, Juan de Pablo Bonet published the Reduction of letters and art to teach the mute in Madrid to speak. This work will be considered as the first modern treatise on phonetics in sign language that establishes an oral teaching method for the deaf and also a manual alphabet.

At the same time in Great Britain, manual alphabets were used in different areas such as secret communication, speaking in front of an audience but also for the communication of deaf and dumb people.

With the passage of time, other schools and institutions were created in the rest of Europe and the world (France, Italy, United States,…).

Nowadays, there are several sign languages ​​that differ from each other both in the lexicon (set of signs or gestural signs) and in grammar, and which originate from the French, British, and German sign languages, among others. Since the 1980s, several specialists and sociologists have become much more interested in sign language, which is finally recognized as a “full-fledged” language in various countries of the world.

Source of Sign Language

Even though sign languages ​​are currently used almost exclusively among deaf people, their origin is as old as oral languages ​​or even older, in the history of the appearance of Humanity, and they have also been and continue to be used by community listeners.

One of the best-known systems were those created by the Indians of North America as a communication system between tribes that did not maintain the same language. Each tribe had its own signs to indicate the rivers, mountains, and places that were closest to them. Thus, they moved their hands with a tremor in front of the body to indicate the sensation of cold; the same sign was used for winter and for the year because the North American Indians counted the years by winters. Their system was so rich that they could carry on a conversation only by gestures. Sign language with origin and classification

Sign language classification

Many of the modern sign languages ​​can be classified into sign language families:

  1. Languages ​​originating from the old French Sign Language. These languages ​​date back to the standardized forms of sign languages ​​used in Italy and France from the 17th century and especially from the 18th century on in the education of the deaf.
  2. Iberian sign languages, which show similarities to the old French sign language but whose origin is not well known.
  3. Languages ​​originated from the British Sign Language (BSL), which diversified during the 19th century giving rise to the Australian Sign Language or Auslan, the New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL), and the Northern Irish Sign Language.
  4. Languages ​​originating from the German Sign Language (DGS), which is considered to be related to the Sign Language of German Switzerland (DSGS), the Austrian Sign Language (ÖGS), and probably the Israeli Sign Language (ISL).
  5. Languages ​​originating from the ancient Kentish Sign Language used during the 17th century.

Sign Language and Linguistics

The scientific study of sign languages ​​has revealed that they have all the properties and complexities of any natural oral language. Despite the widespread and erroneous conception that they are artificial languages.

Specifically, the following facts have been found regarding sign languages ​​that provide the necessary linguistics to classify them as natural languages:

  1. They have abstract phonology, called in this case queirology, which can be analyzed informal terms in terms of position, orientation, configuration, in a way analogous to how the phonemes of oral languages ​​are analyzed.
  2. They have a syntax that obeys the same general principles as other natural languages, and they have some productive word-formation mechanisms that allow affirming the existence of morphological processes.
  3. Sign languages, like oral languages, are organized by elementary units without their own meaning (lexemes).
  4. Sign languages ​​are not simple, nor are they a visual reproduction of some simplified version of any spoken language. They have complex, creative, and productive grammar like that of any other natural language.

Misunderstandings and myths about Sign languages

The scarce knowledge of this type of languages ​​has led to the assumption of certain preconceived ideas about them, which have been shown to be erroneous:

  1. Sign languages ​​are not authentically languages, but mnemonic codes to designate objects and concepts. Fake. Sign languages ​​are natural languages ​​that have perfectly defined grammatical structures. In fact, there are people, even listeners, whose mother tongue is a sign language. The linguistic acquisition process studied in children whose mother tongue is a sign language follows stages totally analogous to the acquisition of oral languages ​​(babbling, one-word stage, …). In addition, the processes of morphological analogy, ellipsis, phonetic changes, or assimilation also occur in the same way in sign languages.
  2. Spanish Sign Language, French Sign Language, or British Sign Language are ways of coding Spanish, French, or English using gestural signs. Fake. Sometimes the sign language of certain countries and the most used oral language in those same countries differ grammatically in many different parameters, such as the position of the syntactic nucleus or the syntactic order of the constituents. Some versions of this misunderstanding is that sign languages ​​have some kind of dependence on oral languages, for example, that they basically use a spelling of the words of an oral language through gestural symbols.
  3. All sign languages ​​are alike. Fake. Sign languages ​​differ from each other, both in the lexicon (set of gestural signs) and in grammar, just as oral languages ​​differ from each other. Sign language with origin and classification


Generally, listeners are able to communicate more effectively with the oralized deaf, that is, first trained in the oral language in oralist schools, who, upon later entering the Gestural Deaf community, learn a basic “vocabulary” of signs that they then transmit to the students. listeners who want to learn that language. Obviously, learning a vocabulary, no matter how extensive, does not mean learning or mastering a language.

The learning process of sign language is the same for all oralized deaf people: in their early years, they attend oralist schools where they come into contact with the oral language, whose grammar each deaf individual manages to appropriate to a different degree. Commonly, in their youth, many attend Deaf associations where they begin to learn a vocabulary of signs. In the first stage, they are expressed with Bimodal, which consists of sentences with the oral grammar at the same time that the learned signs are articulated.

This same process and the following ones are experienced by every hearing person interested in learning sign language.

The more it delves into the knowledge of sign language, you get to the stage of the Pidgin (Papiamento spoken in Curacao was originally a pidgin, so it is still the Spanglishof the Mexico-US border) characterized by a speech in which pieces of Sign Language appear at times, at times pieces in oral language, at times body language, at times manual alphabet, at times articulation of words, in an arbitrary mixture depending on the abilities of the speaker-signer until achieving, in the last instance, in the passage of time, sometimes years, the mastery of Sign Language. This process occurs unconsciously. The most common is to find oralized Deaf and interpreters who develop in the world of the Deaf with pidgin and most of the teachers are in the bimodal stage, as are many interpreters who are unaware of this situation.

Pidgin is not a language, but an arbitrary mixture of elements from various semantic systems, from various linguistic codes. Neither is bimodal, which is a mixture of oral language, usually poorly expressed, with added signs to help visualize the words. Sign language with origin and classification

This continuous process is imperceptible to the parties involved, and from the beginning, it leaves the impression that Sign Language is mastered due to the agile communication that is achieved with and between the oralized deaf, who are its users. Gestural deaf people do not understand the messages sent through these modalities because they do not know, or do not master the oral grammar, and are confused when recognizing the signs but not the syntax, for which they cannot correctly decode the message.

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