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  • Writer's pictureMaría Palomares Tarí


The International Day of Sign Languages is a unique opportunity to support and protect the linguistic identity and cultural diversity of all deaf people and other sign language users. To this matter, let’s not forget that according to the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD), there are more than 70 million deaf people across the world. Collectively, these people use over 300 different sign languages.

The origins of sign language trace back to the natural inclination of humans to communicate using gestures and visual cues. Deaf communities have historically developed their own sign languages as a means of communication, often in isolation from spoken languages.

To recognize and promote the use of sign language once again, today at YOKO we’ve come up with a brief overview of the origins of sign language:

Prehistoric Roots

Even before the advent of spoken language, early humans communicated through gestures and body language. These nonverbal forms of communication were essential for survival and cooperation.

Deaf Communities

Throughout history, deaf individuals have formed communities that developed their own visual languages to communicate. These languages were influenced by local culture and shared experiences.

Indigenous Sign Languages

Indigenous cultures around the world have used sign languages to bridge language barriers among different tribal groups. These languages often arose as a way to facilitate trade and communication between communities with diverse spoken languages.

Educational Beginnings

Formal education for the deaf began in the 18th century with the establishment of schools for deaf children. Educators like Abbé de l'Épée and Thomas Gallaudet played key roles in the development and spread of sign languages.

American Sign Language (ASL)

One of the most well-known sign languages is American Sign Language. It emerged in the early 19th century in the United States, influenced by French Sign Language and regional sign systems.

International Sign

With the rise of global communication and events such as the Deaflympics, an international sign language known as International Sign (IS) was developed to facilitate communication among deaf individuals from different countries.

Recognition and Documentation

Over time, sign languages gained recognition as legitimate languages with complex grammatical structures. Researchers began to document various sign languages, preserving their cultural and linguistic richness.

Modern Developments

Today, sign languages continue to evolve and adapt. They are taught in schools, used in various professional fields, and celebrated as integral parts of deaf culture.

It's important to note that each sign language is unique and reflects the cultural and linguistic context of its community. The origins of sign language highlight the human capacity for communication and adaptation, showcasing the rich diversity of ways we connect and convey meaning.

Happy International Day of Sign Languages from the YOKO Team!


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