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Re: SCA sign

At 4:40 PM 22.01.96, Matthew Allen Newsome wrote:
>All of this talk about sign language has made me curious...
>Is there any evedence of a type of sign used in period?  How recent is
>the idea of talking with your hands?
>P.S.- Just to avoid confusion, I am in no way suggesting sign should not
>be used at events if it is not period.  I'm just interested in a little

Some of this is from an article I read a couple of years ago, some is from
talking to friends who work with deaf people.  I'm sure there are people
here who can answer this better than I, but until they speak up...

People have probably been talking with their hands forever and ever, amen;
but it was only about the late 1700s that anybody set out to teach a
standard sign language.  Prior to that, every deaf person had to work out
something on their own--say, if you were born deaf, your family would come
to some kind of system; and maybe the rest of the village would pick it up.
You couldn't talk to anybody from the next village (of course, most of the
world rarely went as far as the next village, so that was OK :-).

In France--soon after the Revolution, I think--a couple of Jesuit priests
working in the slums of, um, some city, found a pair of deaf sisters who
used a private sign to speak to each other.  They thought this was a great
idea (being priests, they were probably upset at the thought of anyone
being unable to hear the Word of God; being Jesuits, they were probably
shaken to the core at the thought of anyone being unable to learn to argue
;-).  So they set out to formalize the system, and started gathering deaf
people and teaching them.  It eventually grew into a pretty heavy-duty
movement; I'm not sure, but I think it's the same sign language used in
France today, and may have spread to other countries, too.

I believe it is known that that there were (still are?) local areas where
the population happened to include more deaf people--something like 50%
sometimes-- and they grew their own language, which was known by everyone
in the village.  But that'd be as far as it went.

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