Who Invented Sign Language? [When, Where & How]

The history of sign language is hard to track because hearing people are the record keepers of history. They have been telling the stories that have been passed down to us, and they tend to tell it their way. So, who invented sign language?

Sign language was invented by Juan Pablo de Bonet. He was a teacher and a cleric of the Franciscan order in Spain. De Bonet’s idea is believed to be the precursor to modern sign language.

How does it work and why do languages differ? This article discusses the history of sign language, how it was invented, and the reasons for its differences around the globe.

Take a look at the 30 best inventions in the 1800s

Who invented sign language?

who invented sign language

In 1620, Juan Pablo de Bonet was a person who invented sign language. 

He was born in Valencia, Spain, and later moved to Barcelona.

He studied law there, but he also studied mathematics. 

He believed that language could be invented through mathematics and that speech was not needed to communicate. 

In 1620, he published his book “Arte de las marcas y arte para enseñar a hablar a los mudos” (“Art of Signs and Art for Teaching Mutes to Speak”). 

He wrote about various ways of communicating with the deaf using hand gestures and symbols instead of words. 

De Bonet believed that teaching the deaf how to talk would cause them to lose their ability to understand mathematics.

It’s because it would draw their attention away from studying numbers.

He also believed that it would make them less intelligent than those who did not know how to speak.

It is because they would not be able to think as clearly as those who did not use words when communicating with one another.

Who invented sign language for the deaf?

The first traces of sign language for the deaf can be found in Ancient Greece. 

In fact, it was Aristotle who first documented gestures used by deaf people.

The ancient Greeks were very interested in developing ways to communicate with people who could not hear or speak. 

They studied their own gestures and developed a system of communicating with those who had lost their hearing ability. 

The Romans also contributed to the development of standard sign language by creating an alphabet that enabled them to write down what they saw as they watched people make gestures.

Who invented the sign language alphabet?

Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, a minister, and sign language teacher developed American Sign Language (ASL) in the 1800s. 

Gallaudet was studying to become a minister when he met a deaf child named Alice Cogswell.

He learned that there was no way for Alice to communicate with her family or the other students at school. 

Gallaudet spent years working with Alice and other children who were deaf to develop a way for them to communicate by using signs and gestures. 

This became known as Sign Language—the first language of its kind in America.

Who invented sign language gloves?

Bell Labs engineer Gary Grimes invented sign language gloves. 

He developed them as a way to help deaf people communicate with those who don’t speak sign language, including family members and coworkers.

The gloves are made of thin, flexible fabric with embedded sensors that detect the wearer’s hand motions and translate them into computer-generated text or speech. 

The gloves have a tiny camera attached to one index finger, which can capture images in real-time and send them to a mobile device so they can be read aloud by the software.

Who invented American sign language?

American sign language was invented in the American School for the Deaf (ASD), which opened in 1817. 

The school’s founder, Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, traveled to Europe to learn about teaching methods and found that many of them were based on oralism

It’s the idea that deaf people should be taught to speak, not to sign.

Gallaudet brought his findings back to the United States, where he began teaching at ASD.

 He taught students how to sign, but also developed a curriculum based on oralism. 

This created a debate within the deaf community about the importance for deaf children to learn their language through sign or speech.

Who invented British sign language?

Thomas Braidwood, a Scottish minister, founded the first school for the deaf in Great Britain. 

He founded Braidwood’s Academy for the Deaf and Dumb in 1760 in Edinburgh. 

The school was one of the first to teach deaf people to speak and read lips.

Braidwood was born in 1750 in Lanarkshire, Scotland. As a child, he suffered from a severe illness that left him deaf.

 He was taught by his father to use sign language, which helped him communicate with others who were also deaf.

In addition to teaching at Braidwood’s Academy for the Deaf and Dumb, Braidwood also wrote books on how to teach reading and writing through sign language.

When was sign language invented?

So, officially, when was the first sign language invented? The American School for the Deaf (ASD) was founded in 1817, and it was there that the first sign language was invented. 

The ASD was one of the first schools of its kind to be established in the United States, and it helped to change the lives of many deaf children across the country.

The ASD taught deaf students how to communicate using a combination of gestures and signs linked together with speech. 

The school’s founder, Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, had been inspired by his wife’s deafness and wanted to help her learn how to communicate better. 

As more schools began popping up across America, more people started learning about sign language and its benefits for those who were hearing impaired.

The use of sign language gradually became more widespread as more people learned about it and realized how useful it could be in communicating with others who did not have access to auditory speech. 

When was American sign language invented?

American sign language was invented in 1817 by the American School for the Deaf (ASD). 

The ASD was founded by Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet and Laurent Clerc, who were both deaf. 

They wanted to create a school where deaf children sign language could be educated in a way that was accessible to them.

The first sign language school opened in Hartford, Connecticut. It was an all-male boarding school. 

Students came from all over the world to attend this school, which served as a model for other schools around the country.

When was French sign language invented?

French sign language was invented in the 18th century.

In 1755, Abbé Charles-Michel de l’Épée founded the first school for deaf children in Paris, France. 

The school used sign language to teach its students, who were mostly from poor families and therefore unable to afford an education at a hearing school.

De l’Épée taught his students a kind of Sign Language that he developed himself. 

This became known as Old French Sign Language (OFSL), and it included signs from other sign languages like Old Italian Sign Language as well as signs invented by de l’Épée himself.

Where was sign language invented?

when was sign language invented

So, when did sign language begin? 

The first indication of sign language was found in Ancient Greece, where deaf people were able to communicate with each other through the use of gestures. 

The first written signs are believed to have been developed by a man named Juan Pablo Bonet in 1620.

These signs were based on Spanish Sign Language, which was developed by Pedro Ponce de León and Juan Calbax in 1566.

Sign language has evolved over time. The structure of sign language has changed as it has spread across different cultures and countries. 

However, all languages share common features such as handshapes and movements, facial expressions, body postures, and location relative to the speaker.

Why was sign language invented?

Many people wonder why sign language was invented. 

Sign languages are used by deaf and hard-of-hearing people to communicate in the absence of auditory information, such as when they are in a noisy environment or when there is no auditory information available.

They may also be used by people who do not have conventional speech. 

Sign languages are used in many different communities around the world, both within and outside of deaf communities.

The first sign language was developed by French Catholic priest, Roch-Ambroise Cucurron Sicard, in 1755. 

His goal was to help his students learn to read lips and speak so they could attend church services. 

Since then, sign languages have been created in countries around the world, including America and Japan.

Today there are an estimated 1 million people who use American Sign Language (ASL) as their primary means of communication.

How many sign languages are there?

There are more than 600 sign languages in the world, but only two of them are used in countries where English is the primary language: 

British Sign Language (BSL) and American Sign Language (ASL).

These are not mutually intelligible, and they have different grammatical structures and vocabularies. 

Sign languages are used by people who are deaf or hard of hearing, who either have no speech or have difficulty speaking. 

They may have been born deaf or become deaf later in life.

The use of sign language varies among countries and regions depending on the needs of deaf persons. 

Some countries have only one sign language which is used by all deaf people in that country. 

Other countries have several different sign languages which are used by different groups within the country.

Is sign language universal?

While sign languages are universal in that they are used by people of all races and ethnicities, different sign languages are used in different countries or regions.

For example, American Sign Language (ASL) is used in the United States, and Bali Sign Language is used in Bali. 

The two languages share many similarities, but they also have significant differences.

The same can be said for British Sign Language (BSL), which is used in the United Kingdom, and Auslan, which is used in Australia.

These languages also share many similarities but have their own unique features as well.

But if you know BSL or ASL, you’re on the safe side. For example, if you know ASL, you could go to England and use it without any problem—and vice versa!

Is sign language hard to learn?

It’s not only a great way for deaf people to communicate and interact with each other, but it’s also a useful skill for people who don’t know any sign language at all.

In fact, many people who are learning sign language use it as a way to help them practice their speaking skills.

Sign language is easier than spoken languages because it doesn’t rely on sound, which means there’s no need to worry about pronunciation or accent – all you need to do is learn the basics!

Is American sign language universal?

American Sign Language (ASL) is not universal. 

There are dozens of sign languages in use around the world, and they all have their own unique features and pronunciations.

Even though American Sign Language (ASL) is not universal, it is the most popular sign language in the United States. 

Because of this, if you know ASL, you can communicate all around the world.

ASL is a language that uses hand gestures and facial expressions to convey meaning. 

The signs for different words are organized into different categories: nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. 

Each category has a set of rules that govern how it’s constructed and used.

What are the different types of sign languages?

There are more than 300 different types of sign language in use around the world. 

This means that there are several different types of sign language, each with its own unique cultural history and characteristics.

Sign language is a language that uses hand gestures and body movements to convey meaning. 

Sign languages are used by people who are deaf or hard of hearing as their primary means of communication.

The most common types of sign language include American Sign Language (ASL), Japanese Sign Language (JSL), and Spanish Sign Language (SSL). 

These three languages are used by millions of people in their respective countries, but they exist alongside many other varieties of sign language around the world.

How does sign language work?

Sign language is a language that uses signs instead of sounds. 

It is a visual-spatial form of communication that involves both hands and face, and it relies on the ability to see rather than to hear. 

Sign languages are used by people who are deaf or hard of hearing, and they can be either manually coded languages or natural sign languages.

There are many different types of sign language, with some being more formal sign language than others. 

American Sign Language (ASL) is the most commonly used sign language in the United States, while British Sign Language (BSL) is used in the UK.

The purpose of sign language is to provide those who cannot hear speech with a way to communicate verbally with others. 

It allows them to converse with others without having to write down what they want to say or having someone read their lips while they speak.

Who uses sign language?

Sign language is a tool used by deaf people and people with hearing disabilities to communicate with each other. It is not spoken, but rather uses gestures and hand movements to convey ideas.

When communicating with a deaf person who uses sign language, you should always speak clearly and use simple words that are easy to understand. 

You should also make sure you stand at an appropriate distance so they can see your face and read your lips easily.

It’s important to remember that not everyone who uses sign language is deaf or hard of hearing. 

Some people who use sign language do so because it helps them express themselves more effectively when speaking aloud may be difficult for them due to a disability or medical condition such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Importance of sign language

Sign language is extremely important for all deaf people and their families. 

It enables them to communicate with each other and the world at large, and it provides a sense of community and belonging. 

While many people do not realize it, sign language is a language in its own right, with its own rules and structure. 

It has its own grammar, syntax, and vocabulary.

Sign language is also important because it allows deaf people to interact with each other as well as with hearing people. 

They can use it in school, at work, or when they are socializing with friends or family members.

The pledge of allegiance in sign language

The U.S. Flag code states that the Pledge may be recited in any language by anyone. 

Many people like to recite it in sign language as a way to show respect but also help children and adults learn how to sign in order to communicate with others even when they can’t speak verbally.

The pledge of allegiance in sign language gives deaf people the opportunity to pledge their loyalty to the US. 

There are special signs for each word in the pledge. When you are saying the pledge, you should use those signs instead of speaking or singing them out loud.

History of sign language timeline

The history of sign language is a long one, going back to ancient times.

  • The Ancient Egyptians were known to have a form of sign language that they used to communicate with the deaf and mute.
  • The Hebrews had a similar form of communication, which was known as “tongue-tied speech.” It consisted of hand gestures and facial expressions that conveyed meaning.
  • In Ancient Greece, the deaf and mute were often viewed as having magical powers and were believed to be able to predict the future. This led them to be ostracized from society, which often resulted in them being killed at birth.

In many cultures throughout history, people who were deaf or mute were considered less than human and were forced into exile or slavery because of their condition.

History of sign language in America

The history of sign language in America began in 1817 in Hartford, Connecticut.

 A young man named Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet was in a bookstore when he saw an elderly deaf woman and her daughter.

Gallaudet was fascinated by their story, and he decided to go back home and open a school for the deaf there. He visited several schools before finally settling on one in Hartford. 

The school opened its doors on April 15th, 1817, with only two students: Alice Cogswell and her brother James.

They were both deaf mutes who had been taught by their parents how to use sign language to communicate with others who were deaf-mute as well.

French sign language history

French sign language dates back to the 18th century when a deaf man named Charles Michel de l’Épée.

He founded the first school for the deaf in Paris. He also invented a system of signs that would eventually become French Sign Language (FSL).

At this point, FSL was only used by people who were deaf or mute, but in the mid-19th century, education for all children with disabilities was made mandatory by the French government. 

This meant that FSL became part of public schools and began to be used by non-deaf people as well.


To provide you with even more interesting information about who invented sign language, I put together a list of frequently asked questions on this topic.

Did Helen Keller invent sign language?

Even though Helen Keller didn’t invent sign language, she was one of the first people to advocate for sign language as a way to communicate with people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Who was the first deaf person?

A: It’s hard to say, this disability is old as humanity. The first deaf person we know of was Tiresias, a blind prophet in Greek mythology who was turned into a woman by the gods after striking two snakes copulating with his staff.

How did sign language originally start?

Sign language was originally developed in the 16th century as a way for people with hearing disabilities to communicate with one another.

How long was ASL banned?

ASL was banned for a few decades in the 19th century. In fact, the ban lasted from the 1860s to around the turn of the 20th century. The reason? It did more harm than good.

What are the 3 types of sign language?

Three main types of sign language: American, British, and French. All three are used in different places around the world to communicate with people who have hearing impairments.

Final thoughts

In conclusion, it doesn’t really matter who invented sign language.

The important thing was that the deaf had a way to communicate with people who don’t know how to use sign language.

It was a turning point for many people and helped change the lives of millions of deaf people around the world.

If you’re willing to share your thoughts on this topic, or you have any questions about it, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll gladly respond.