What was the first sign language in the world?

The question of who invented sign language has always been a great debate, and people have various ideas and conclusions of what might have been the first sign languages in the world. Many people believe that people would have used sign languages before they came up with other languages which included actual words.

Sign language:

Sign language is where manual communication is used to convey something to the other person. These manual communications include facial expressions, hand gestures, finger movements, arm and body movement etc. The sign language which people follow today has emerged through an abstract just like the other languages of the world. Many people think that there is only one sign language in this world and people follow a single sign language all across the globe but there are about approximately 137 sign languages in the world and each one of them is different from each other.

History of sign language:


The first ever record of sign language was recorded in the 5th century, and it was said to be comprised of mimics, hand signals, gestures and finger spelling. Certain signs can represent words while others may represent an entire phrase or even complete ideas. These sign languages are much different in construction when compared to other oral languages and are used by most deaf people to communicate with each other.

Some of the earliest records of sign languages were from Plato’s Cratylus and in 60 A.D sign languages were recorded in the Bible. Many sign languages were not documented instead many sign languages were developed independently all over the world. In the 17th century people believed that the deaf could not be taught but John, an Archbishop of York, took the responsibility to teach a deaf person how to read and write.

Deaf people lived together before the 17th century in small communities and had their way of gestures and signs to communicate with each other.

One of the earliest records where deaf people were taught to understand oral language was when Juan Pablo Bonet had published a book which taught the mute and the deaf people to speak. By using manual signs, the book helped dumb and deaf children to communicate with each other.

Sign languages were also used as secret languages in Britain, and it was also used to communicate to the deaf community. In the year 1680 a book named “The deaf and dumb man’s tutor” which was written by George Dalgarno where he presents his way of deaf education where he used anthological systems to help people learn the sign language efficiently and easily.

In the 18th century, a school for the deaf and mute people was established in Connecticut and in 1864 a college was founded for deal people in America. Later sign language became very popular, and many institutes were established to teach the deaf people in the world.