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From:  Joe Martin
Date:  Sat Oct 16, 1999  3:16 am
Subject:  history

Some trivia, relevant to the stuff below;...

The christian monks of medieval europe not only participated in charitable
works like orphanages and such but many of them lived under a vow of
silence, communicating only with the monastic sign language. Hence, a
deaf person--who was lucky enough--could live there and more or less
have "equal access." Ettiene de Fay was such a one, a deaf man who lived
in the latter part of the 17th century, with the Premontre monks of
Ameins, France. He became a successful architect,
and used his wealth to educate deaf children.

....facts end, commentary begins...

I think it's a safe bet that this counts as an instance of a signing
community forming, (he was deaf, the kids were deaf, they lived in a
place where signing wasn't stigmatized, and no one spoke...) The normal
sociolinguistic process would have been for them to develop or
create a natural signed language just as happened in Nica. Languages come
and go; probably this one went extinct later. I see no need for an
unbroken chain up to the present. (altho maybe this one hung around to
be an ancestor of Old FSL, and thus ASL ;-) Nor do we need thousands of
people; how many are at Bluefields? Either way, all this indicates to me
that signed languages have always existed, just like spoken ones.

Date: Wed, 6 Oct 1999 22:40:06 -0400
>From: "Angus B. Grieve-Smith"

> My main issue is with the claim that signed languages have
>throughout time. I do in fact like the idea that Sherman Wilcox and
>others have proposed that the first languages may have been gestural.
>in order for there to have been an unbroken chain of signed languages
>then to now, there would have to have been a critical-mass population of
>Deaf people existing for tens of thousands of years. Remember that we
>don't have any evidence for towns of more than a hundred thousand until
>relatively recently.

Reply From: Therese Shellabarger
I've read that there was signing in classical Greece. There have been
scattered hints here and there of other places, and that signing as we
it today may have started with certain monasteries. Those would also be
logical refuges for Deaf people fleeing persecution.
Joe Martin, Plain Old Ordinary Student
Top Left Corner USA

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