French Sign Language family
|French Sign Language|
|Before 1850, Western Europe, and North America; today parts of Europe, the Americas, Africa, and Asia.|
|Linguistic classification||One of the world's sign language families|
The FSL family descends from Old French Sign Language, which developed among the deaf community in Paris. The earliest mention of Old French Sign Language is by the abbé Charles-Michel de l'Épée in the late 17th century, but it could have existed for centuries prior. Several European sign languages, such as Russian Sign Language, derive from it, as does American Sign Language, established when French educator Laurent Clerc taught his language at the American School for the Deaf. Others, such as Spanish Sign Language, are thought to be related to French Sign Language even if they are not directly descendant from it.
Henri Wittmann (1991) lists the following suspected members of the family, with date of establishment or earliest attestation:
French Sign Language (1752; may be different from Old French Sign Language)
- Austro-Hungarian Sign Language (1780; now seen as separate Austrian Sign Language and Hungarian Sign Language)
- Dutch Sign Language (1799)
- Danish Sign Language (1806)
- Latvian Sign Language (1806)
- Philippine Sign Language (1806?) (frequently attributed to American Sign Language)
- American Sign Language (1817, with possible local admixture)
- Puerto Rican Sign Language (1907)
- Thai Sign Language (1951, creolized with indigenous sign).
- Hawaiian Pidgin Sign Language (with possible local admixture) [turns out to be an isolate]
- Ghanaian Sign Language (1957)
- Nigerian Sign Language (1960)
- Kuala Lumpur Sign Language (1960?; now Malaysian Sign Language?)
- Bolivian Sign Language (1973; a dialect of American Sign Language)
- Moroccan Sign Language (1987?)
- and "Eskimo Sign Language"? (dubious: the indigenous Inuit Sign Language is an isolate)
- A mixture of FSL and ASL may have given rise to
- Italian Sign Language (1828)
- Tunisian Sign Language (with local admixture)
- Irish Sign Language (1846)
- Mexican Sign Language (1869)
- Algerian Sign Language (undated)
- Romanian Sign Language (undated)
- Catalan Sign Language (undated, but early)
Wittnann believes Lyons Sign Language, Spanish Sign Language, Brazilian Sign Language, and Venezuelan Sign Language, which are sometimes counted in the French family, had separate origins, though with some contact through stimulus diffusion, and it was Lyons rather than French Sign Language that gave rise to Belgian Sign Language. Chilean Sign Language (1852) has also been included in the French family but is not listed by Wittmann.
Anderson (1979) had previously postulated the following classification of FSL and its relatives, with derivation from Medieval monks' sign systems, though some lineages are apparently traced by their manual alphabets and thus irrelevant for actual classification:
- Monastic sign languages (described 1086)
- "Southwest European" Sign Languages
- Old Polish → Polish Sign Language
- Old French Sign Language (before l'Épée)
- Eastern French: Old Danish (edu. 1807), Old German, German Evangelical (edu. 1779 Austria), Old Russian (edu. 1806)
- Western French
- Middle French Sign Language finger-spelling group: Netherlands (1780), Belgium (1793), Switzerland, Old French
- Middle French (dict. 1850) → French
- American (edu. 1816; later including components from Northwest European sign languages)
- International finger-spelling group: Norway, Finland, Germany, US
- Old Brazilian → Brazil, Argentina, Mexico
- Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "LSFic". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
- Wittmann, Henri (1991). "Classification linguistique des langues signées non vocalement." Revue québécoise de linguistique théorique et appliquée 10:1.215–88.
- SIL reports that it is mutually intelligible with Swedish Sign Language, which Wittmann assigns to the BANZSL family and other authors suspect is an independent family.
- Lloyd Anderson & David Peterson, 1979, A comparison of some American, British, Australian, and Swedish signs: evidence on historical changes in signs and some family relationships of sign languages