History : May-Jun 2019
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC HISTORY 13 In 1755 the French Catholic priest Charles-Michel de l’Épée established a more comprehensive method for educat- ing the deaf, which culminated in the founding of the first public school for deaf children, the National Institute for Deaf- Mutes in Paris. Students came to the in- stitute from all over France, bringing signs they had used to communicate with at home. Épée adapted these signs and add- ed his own manual alphabet, creating a signing dictionary. Insistent that sign language needed to be a complete lan- guage, his system was complex enough to express prepositions, conjunctions, and other grammatical elements. Épée is known as the father of the deaf for his work and his establishment of 21 schools. Épée’s standardized sign language quickly spread across Europe and to the United States. In 1814 Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, a minister from Connecticut who wanted to teach his nine-year-old, hearing-impaired neighbor to communi- cate, went to France to train under Épée’s successor, Abbé Sicard. Three years later, Gallaudet established the American School for the Deaf in his hometown of Hartford, Connecticut. Students from across the United States attended, and just as at Épée’s school, they brought signs they used to communicate with at home. American Sign Language became a combination of these signs and those from French Sign Language. Thanks to the development of formal sign languages, people with hearing im- pairment can access spoken language in all its variety. The world’s many modern signing systems have different rules for pronunciation, word order, and grammar. New visual languages can even express regional accents to reflect the complexi- ty and richness of local speech. —Inés Antón Dayas BIBLIOTECA NACIONAL DE ESPAÑA JUAN PABLO BONET’S 1620 Reduction of the Letters of the Alphabet and Method of Teaching Deaf-Mutes to Speak provided detailed illustrations of signs.