Sign language is a form of communication that has been used by the deaf for centuries. It is a visual language that uses a combination of hand gestures, facial expressions, and body language to convey meaning. However, there is still some debate about whether sign language is universal or specific to certain languages. In this blog post, we will explore the origins of sign language, how it has evolved over time, and whether it is truly universal.
The Origin Of Sign Language:
The origins of sign language are difficult to trace, as there are no written records of its early use. However, it is believed that sign language has been used by the deaf for centuries. One of the earliest recorded instances of sign language comes from the 5th century bc, when socrates spoke about the use of gestures and signs to communicate without sound. In the middle ages, sign language was often used by monks to communicate without breaking their vows of silence. It was not until the 18th century that sign language began to be developed and formalised.
The Development Of Sign Language:
In the 18th century, there were two major schools of thought regarding the use of sign language. The first was the oralist approach, which emphasised the use of spoken language and speech therapy to teach the deaf to communicate. The second was the manualist approach, which emphasised the use of sign language as the primary means of communication for the deaf. The manualist approach eventually won out, and sign language became more widely used and accepted.
As sign language became more formalised, different sign languages began to develop in different regions. These were based on the natural sign languages that had developed over time, but were often standardised and codified by deaf educators and linguists. This led to the development of sign languages like american sign language (asl), british sign language (bsl), and japanese sign language (jsl).
Is Sign Language Universal?
One of the biggest debates in the field of sign language is whether it is universal or specific to certain languages. On the one hand, sign language is often considered to be a universal language of the deaf, since it is a form of communication used by deaf people all over the world. Additionally, many basic sign language gestures are similar across different sign languages and can be easily understood by users of different sign languages.
However, there are also major differences between different sign languages, and some signs can mean completely different things in different sign languages. For example, the sign for “yes” in asl is different from the sign for “yes” in bsl. Additionally, some signs are specific to certain cultures or regions. For example, the sign for “peace” in asl is different from the sign for “peace” in jsl.
While sign language itself may not be universal, there are some universal gestures that are commonly used across different cultures and languages. These include gestures like waving or nodding, which are understood by most people regardless of their language or culture. Additionally, many facial expressions are universal and can convey emotions like happiness, sadness, or anger.
Specific To American Sign Language:
American sign language (asl) is the most widely used sign language in the united states and canada, and is spoken by more than 500,000 people. Asl has its own grammar and syntax, which is very different from spoken english. Some signs in asl are similar to signs in british sign language, but there are many signs that are specific to asl. For example, the sign for “orange” in asl is different from the sign for “orange” in bsl.
Specific To British Sign Language:
British sign language (bsl) is the main sign language used in the united kingdom, and is spoken by an estimated 150,000 people. Bsl has its own grammar and syntax, which is similar to but not identical to asl. Some signs in bsl are similar to signs in asl, but there are many signs that are specific to bsl. For example, the sign for “tea” in bsl is different from the sign for “tea” in asl.
Specific To Japanese Sign Language:
Japanese sign language (jsl) is the most widely used sign language in japan, and is spoken by an estimated 300,000 people. Jsl has its own grammar and syntax, which is very different from spoken japanese. Some signs in jsl are similar to signs in asl, but there are many signs that are specific to jsl. For example, the sign for “sushi” in jsl is different from the sign for “sushi” in asl.
Sign language is a complex and multifaceted form of communication that has developed over centuries. While some aspects of sign language are universal, like basic gestures and facial expressions, there are also many differences between different sign languages. Asl, bsl, and jsl are just a few examples of the many sign languages that exist all over the world. Whether sign language is truly universal or specific to certain languages is a matter of debate, but what is clear is that it is an important means of communication for millions of people around the world.