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International Signs

  • By: Robert Adam
  • In: The SAGE Deaf Studies Encyclopedia
  • Edited by: Genie Gertz & Patrick Boudreault
  • Subject:Physical Disabilities, Otorhinolaryngology (Ears, Nose, & Throat)

It has often been said that when Deaf people from different language backgrounds meet, it is possible for them to communicate with each other, and that it is not as easy for hearing people from different language backgrounds to be able to do this. In the absence of the one universal sign language, how is this possible? To understand this phenomenon, it is useful to look at both how deaf people have lived over the millennia and how sign language is structured.

The first descriptions of deaf people communicating by gesture or signs are from civilizations around the Mediterranean from the 5th century BCE. Greek, Roman, and Jewish philosophers wrote about deaf people, their place in society, their status in law (including marriage), and how they ...

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