How Many Versions of Sign Language Are There? Exploring the Diversity of Sign Languages Around the World

Sign language is a fascinating form of expression that transcends traditional spoken language. Many people are not aware that there are actually hundreds of versions of sign language, each with its own unique set of rules and vocabulary. From American Sign Language to British Sign Language to Korean Sign Language, there is a rich and diverse world of sign languages waiting to be explored.

While sign language was originally developed to aid the deaf community in communicating with one another, it has evolved into a widely recognized and respected form of expression. It is estimated that there are over 70 million deaf individuals worldwide, and many use sign language as their primary mode of communication. Sign language has also become increasingly popular among hearing individuals, with more and more people expressing an interest in learning the language.

Despite its widespread use and popularity, there is still a lack of knowledge and understanding regarding the different versions of sign language that exist around the world. Through exploring the history and complexities of sign language, we can gain a deeper appreciation for this unique and valuable form of communication. So, let’s take a deeper look at the different versions of sign language and what makes each one special.

The History of Sign Language

Sign language has been used for centuries as a means of communication by individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. The history of sign language can be traced back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, who used hand gestures to communicate with each other. However, it was not until the 18th century that sign language was widely recognized as a language in its own right.

In the 18th century, a Frenchman named Charles-Michel de l’Épée developed a sign system that he taught to deaf students at his school. This sign system, known as Old French Sign Language, became the basis for modern French Sign Language (LSF) and American Sign Language (ASL).

Over time, different sign languages developed in different parts of the world. Today, there are over 300 different sign languages, each with its own grammar, vocabulary, and syntax. Some of the most widely used sign languages include British Sign Language (BSL), Auslan (Australian Sign Language), and Japanese Sign Language (JSL).

How sign language differs from spoken languages

Sign language is a visual language that uses hand gestures, facial expressions, and body movements to convey meaning. Unlike spoken language, sign language does not rely on voiced sounds or written words, but instead emphasizes the use of visual information to communicate.

There are several ways in which sign language differs from spoken languages:

  • Manual vs. vocal elements: Sign language uses manual elements such as handshapes, hand movement, and location on the body to form words and sentences. In contrast, spoken language relies on vocal elements such as phonemes, intonations, and stress patterns to make sound.
  • Non-linear structure: Sign language sentences can take a non-linear structure, where the subject, verb, and object can appear in any order and still convey meaning. In contrast, spoken language follows a more fixed word order.
  • Facial expressions: Sign language uses facial expressions to convey meaning and emotion. These expressions add an additional layer of communication to the words being signed. In spoken languages, facial expressions can accompany words, but they are not an integral part of the language.

Types of sign languages

Many people assume that there is only one sign language, but in fact, there are hundreds of different sign languages used around the world. These sign languages can vary widely in their grammar, vocabulary, and cultural context.

One common misconception is that sign language is universal, understood by all Deaf people no matter their geographic location. However, just like spoken language, sign languages have regional and cultural differences. For example, American Sign Language (ASL) is different from British Sign Language (BSL), and both are different from Auslan, the sign language used in Australia.

The importance of sign language recognition

Despite the widespread use of sign languages around the world, sign language recognition and education are often overlooked. This lack of recognition can lead to limited access to education and employment, as well as social exclusion.

In recent years, there has been a growing push for sign language recognition as a human right and recognition of the importance of early sign language education for Deaf children. Governments and organizations around the world have started to recognize sign language as a legitimate language and provide resources for Deaf individuals and their families.

Sign Language Region/Country
American Sign Language (ASL) United States and Canada
British Sign Language (BSL) United Kingdom
Auslan Australia
Libras Brazil
Lengua de Señas Mexicana (LSM) Mexico

As we continue to recognize and embrace the diversity of sign languages around the world, we can work towards greater inclusion and understanding for Deaf individuals and their communities.

The benefits of learning sign language

Learning sign language is an incredibly rewarding experience, not only from a communication standpoint but also from a personal and academic perspective. Here are some of the benefits of learning sign language.

  • Enhancement of communication skills: Learning sign language can improve communication skills not only with the deaf and hard-of-hearing community but also with individuals who have communication difficulties due to speech impairments or cognitive or intellectual disabilities.
  • Cultural awareness: Sign language is an essential aspect of Deaf culture. Learning sign language can help individuals gain a deeper understanding and empathy towards the Deaf community and their culture.
  • Cognitive benefits: Research has shown that learning sign language can improve brain plasticity and cognitive function, as it involves the visual-spatial and motor centers of the brain.

Additionally, there are also academic and career benefits to learning sign language. An academic benefit could be fulfilling foreign language requirements in school or college, while a career benefit could be that knowing sign language could make a job candidate more attractive to potential employers in various fields.

It is important to note that there is not just one version of sign language but many. The number of sign languages varies depending on different factors such as location, culture, and language. For example, American Sign Language (ASL) is different from British Sign Language (BSL).

Sign Language Region
American Sign Language (ASL) North America
British Sign Language (BSL) United Kingdom
Australian Sign Language (Auslan) Australia
Japanese Sign Language (JSL) Japan
Singapore Sign Language (SgSL) Singapore

Learning any sign language can bring immense benefits, and even just knowing common phrases and gestures can make a world of difference in communicating and connecting with individuals in the deaf community. It is a valuable skill that can enhance one’s personal and professional life in many ways.

Famous Deaf people who have made an impact on society

Deaf people have always existed, but it wasn’t until the 18th century that sign language began to be recognized as a legitimate form of communication. Today, there are countless people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing who have made significant contributions to society in the fields of art, science, sports, politics, and more. Here are some famous Deaf people who have made an impact on society:

  • Ludwig van Beethoven: The famous composer began losing his hearing at the age of 26 and was completely deaf by the time he was 48. Despite this, he continued to compose some of his greatest works, including his Ninth Symphony.
  • Helen Keller: Helen Keller was not only blind but also Deaf, yet she overcame these challenges to become a renowned author, activist, and lecturer. Her life story has inspired countless people around the world.
  • Marlee Matlin: Marlee Matlin is an actress who became the first Deaf person to win an Academy Award for her role in the movie “Children of a Lesser God.” She is also an advocate for the Deaf community and has worked to raise awareness about Deaf culture and issues.

How many versions of sign language are there?

Sign language is not a universal language. Instead, there are many different sign languages that are used around the world. In fact, it’s estimated that there are over 300 different sign languages in use today. Some of the most widely used sign languages include American Sign Language (ASL), British Sign Language (BSL), Auslan (Australian Sign Language), and Chinese Sign Language.

Challenges faced by the Deaf community

Despite the many contributions of Deaf people to society, they still face many challenges. For example, Deaf people often face communication barriers and can have difficulty accessing information that is not available in sign language. They may also face discrimination in employment, education, and other areas of life.

One way to help overcome these challenges is through increased awareness and education about Deaf culture and the use of sign language. This can help to reduce communication barriers and promote a more inclusive society that values the contributions of all people, regardless of their hearing ability.

The importance of sign language interpretation

One way to promote greater accessibility for Deaf people is through sign language interpretation. Sign language interpreters are trained professionals who translate spoken language to sign language and vice versa. They can be found in a variety of settings, such as schools, hospitals, courtrooms, and TV broadcasts.

Scenario Example
Entertainment A concert where a sign language interpreter is provided to make the music accessible for Deaf attendees.
Workplace A Deaf employee being provided with a sign language interpreter during meetings and training sessions to ensure they can participate fully.
Medical A Deaf patient receiving medical treatment and being provided with a sign language interpreter to ensure they can communicate effectively with medical staff.

By providing sign language interpretation, we can help to create a more inclusive society where Deaf people can participate fully in all areas of life.

Current Controversies in the Sign Language Community

Despite the widespread use and recognition of sign language as a legitimate language, controversies still emerge within the deaf community. Here are some of the current controversies in the sign language community:

  • Number of Sign Languages: There is no definitive count of the number of sign languages that exist in the world. Estimates range from 138 to over 300, depending on how “different” a sign language must be in order to be considered a separate language. Some argue that the deaf community should embrace a more inclusive approach and view all sign languages as legitimate and equal.
  • Deaf Culture vs. Cochlear Implants: Cochlear implants can provide partial or full hearing to deaf individuals. While some deaf people see them as a beneficial tool, others argue that cochlear implants are a threat to the deaf community and culture. Some view cochlear implants as a form of “curing” deafness, which they argue perpetuates the idea that being deaf is a pathological condition that needs to be fixed.
  • Manualism vs. Oralism: Manualism is the belief that sign language is the best way to educate deaf individuals. Oralism is the belief that deaf children should learn to speak and lip-read instead of using sign language. This debate dates back to the early 20th century and is still a contentious issue today. Some view oralism as a form of oppression and a denial of deaf culture and identity.

These controversies highlight the complex intersection of language, culture, identity, and disability in the deaf community. They also show that despite progress in recognizing the legitimacy of sign language, there is still much work to be done to ensure the full inclusion and acceptance of the deaf community.

The differences between American Sign Language and British Sign Language

American Sign Language (ASL) and British Sign Language (BSL) are the two most widely used sign languages in the world. Although they share some similarities, they are also quite distinct from one another. In this article, we will discuss the main differences between these two sign languages.

  • Origin: ASL is a descendant of French Sign Language, while BSL is descended from the sign languages used in the UK before it was unified.
  • Grammar: ASL and BSL have their own unique grammar structures and sentence constructions. For instance, ASL typically signs the subject first before the verb, while BSL usually signs the verb first before the subject.
  • Alphabet: The ASL alphabet is based on one-handed fingerspelling, while the BSL alphabet is based on two-handed fingerspelling.

Despite the differences between ASL and BSL, they both have their own regional variations. These variations are influenced by factors such as geography, culture, and history.

For example, there are certain signs in ASL that are specific to the United States, such as the sign for ‘president’. Similarly, BSL has regional variations such as Northern Irish Sign Language (NISL) and Scottish Sign Language (SSL), which have distinct vocabulary and grammar rules.

One-handed fingerspelling Two-handed fingerspelling
Subject-Verb order Verb-Subject order
Uses an open hand for the letter ‘A’ Uses a closed fist for the letter ‘A’

Despite these differences, the fact remains that sign languages across the world are essential tools for communication and social interaction for deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals. ASL and BSL are unique and beautiful languages that have allowed millions of people to express their thoughts, feelings and ideas in a way that is both natural and meaningful to them.

The Future of Sign Language and New Advancements in Technology for the Deaf Community

Sign language is a crucial communication tool for the deaf community. According to the World Federation of Deaf, there are approximately 72 million deaf people worldwide, and there are more than 300 different sign languages used globally. Despite some differences, sign language shares similar principles, including hand shapes, movement, and facial expressions. However, the future of sign language and new advancements in technology are changing the way we see communication for deaf people and the potential for sign language as a global language.

7 Different Versions of Sign Language

  • American Sign Language (ASL)
  • British Sign Language (BSL)
  • Australian Sign Language (Auslan)
  • French Sign Language (LSF)
  • Japanese Sign Language (JSL)
  • Chinese Sign Language (CSL)
  • International Sign Language (ISL)

These seven sign languages are some of the most widely used, but there are many more sign languages used in different countries and regions around the world. Sign language is continuously evolving, and new signs are created to communicate new concepts and ideas. As such, the number of sign languages is continually growing.

Advancements in Technology for the Deaf Community

The deaf community needs access to various technologies that can facilitate its daily communication and participation in society. There are now several innovative technologies that make communication between deaf and hearing people more accessible and efficient. Some of these advancements include:

  • Video Relay Services (VRS) – a system that involves using a video interpreter to bridge the communication gap between hearing and deaf people.
  • Captioning and subtitling – a written form of communication that is helpful for people who are unable to hear or want to understand spoken language better.
  • Haptic technologies – these are devices that allow deaf people to feel sound, such as using vibration to convey music.
Advancement Description
Speech-to-Text Translation Software Enabled deaf people to understand spoken language by instantly transcribing it into text.
Sensor Gloves These gloves can translate sign language gestures into spoken language.
Mobile Applications Several mobile apps help with sign language interpretation, and they allow users to practice and learn new signs in an interactive way.

The advancements in technology for the deaf community are promising and have great potential to revolutionize communication and accessibility. As technology continues to advance, we can expect to see even more innovative solutions for deaf people in the future.

FAQs: How Many Versions of Sign Language Are There?

Q: How many versions of sign language are there?
A: There are over 300 different sign languages in use around the world.

Q: Are sign languages universal?
A: No, sign languages are not universal. Each language has its own grammar, vocabulary, and syntax.

Q: Is American Sign Language (ASL) the same as British Sign Language (BSL)?
A: No, ASL and BSL are different languages with their own unique signs and grammar.

Q: Can different sign languages be understood by someone who knows another sign language?
A: Not necessarily. While some sign languages may share some similarities, they are often distinct and cannot be easily understood by speakers of other sign languages without additional training.

Q: How are sign languages created?
A: Sign languages can develop naturally in deaf communities or be created intentionally. Some created sign languages include Nicaraguan Sign Language and Israeli Sign Language.

Q: How do sign languages differ from spoken languages?
A: Sign languages rely on visual communication rather than spoken communication, and use a combination of facial expressions, body language, and hand gestures to convey meaning.

Q: Can sign language be used by people who are not deaf?
A: Yes, sign language can also be used by people with speech or hearing difficulties, as well as by those who work with deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals.

Closing Thoughts

We hope this article has shed some light on the complex and diverse world of sign languages. Whether you are deaf, hard-of-hearing, or simply interested in language, learning about sign languages can be a fascinating and eye-opening experience. Thank you for reading, and be sure to visit us again for more informative content.