The First School of Sign Languages


Sign languages ​​used by deaf people have existed in the world for over 200 years, when the first schools for deaf children, the first groups of deaf people, began to appear. The first school of its kind in Poland – the Institute for the Deaf in Warsaw – was founded in 1817, so the history of Polish sign language must be counted from that date.

The necessary condition for the creation of a specific communication system, which would be permanent and would be transmitted from generation to generation, is the existence of a community among which it is necessary to create such a system. Since sound language appeared in all human societies, the emergence of a language with a different transmission channel had to be caused by the emergence of a specific situation, which was manifested in the fact that in a given community the use of language sound proved impossible.

This was the phenomenon that took place in the first schools for the deaf (B. Szczepankowski, 1973).    It is worth noting that some sort of sign language was used by North American Indian tribes in inter-tribal communication, certainly from the 18th century, and perhaps even a century or two earlier, which would mean that Indians used sign language before the deaf people.

This language was first described in 1884 by WPClark, an American army captain. Indian Sign Language in the second half of the nineteenth century was used by tens of thousands of American Indians from over twenty different tribes, spread over a vast area of ​​several million square kilometers. This case is the only known and described phenomenon in the world of the massive use of sign language by hearing people.

Subsequently, the transfer of Indians to reservations and the limitation of intertribal contacts led to the gradual disappearance of this language (J. Perlin 1993). Sign languages ​​for the deaf, on the other hand, only flourished around the world in the 19th century. Today they already have history and tradition, they are also, like any living language, a material that forms culture. Being much younger than the languages ​​of sound, they gradually level the backlog, becoming full-fledged languages ​​- semantic systems that are used by a team of people to communicate constantly and about everything (B. Szczepankowski 1996).