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Discuss the evolution of sign language.

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Introduction

The idea behind this essay is to discuss the evolution of sign language. To commence we first must begin to understand the 'Deaf' community and how this language affects their lives. Throughout history deaf people have suffered discrimination at the hands of hearing people. Most people would be horrified at the thought that they may be acting oppressively towards deaf people, and yet deaf people throughout life meet discrimination in one form or another on a daily basis. Such discrimination may not be deliberate - not that people simply don't care, but more likely that they just don't know how to interact. This history of persecution dates all the way back to ancient times and can be traced even before the birth of Christ. " The earliest known written mention of deafness was in the Babylonian laws which restricted the rights of those born deaf ". Groce (1985, pg. 99) Also it is common for early societies to question whether deaf people were capable of being educated or not. In basic terms, they did not have the information or technology to understand the deaf community and therefore abandoned their involvement. ...read more.

Middle

This is backed-up below. "There are now very many sign languages all over the world - but as yet no 'standard' though many are based on early systems thus contain similarities". (ED103 - Introduction to Language Awareness Handout). Another key historical event for deaf people is the 1880 Milan International Congress on the Education and Welfare of the Deaf organised by the hearing teachers of the deaf. The conference lasted only 24 hours, so there was little room for debate, and only one deaf person attended despite there being large numbers of deaf teachers employed at the time. The outcome was the almost unanimous decision to adopt an oralist approach to the education of all deaf children, a trend that continued up until the last thirty or so years. It also meant that teachers who were deaf lost their jobs or were relegated to assistant roles. As recently as 20 years ago, the term BSL was not yet in regular usage, and the sign language of Britain's Deaf Community was regarded as an inferior system of pantomime and gesture that was not a true language. BSL users also use fingerspelling. ...read more.

Conclusion

It is estimated that 8.7 million people in the UK are Deaf or hard of hearing. However, not all of them are members of the Deaf Community - people who use BSL as their first or preferred language. It is difficult to say how many people in the UK use British Sign Language (BSL) as their first or preferred language - current estimates vary between 50,000 and 70,000. BSL users may describe themselves as Deaf, rather than deaf. Their degree of deafness does not, in itself, determine whether or not a person is a member of the Deaf Community. Someone who has become profoundly deaf in adulthood may still identify with the hearing world and rely on lipreading, speech and hearing aids to listen to sound; someone born with a less profound hearing loss into a Deaf family may identify with the Deaf Community and use BSL. It seems to be very difficult to understand, how a language created using only hand movements still has so many different methods throughout the world. Considering the fact that this alphabet was created in the 16th century, It is a very difficult language to learn. It is also surprising how such a dated language is still a benchmark to all world-wide manual languages. ...read more.

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