Beyond the Book: Background information when reading Hands of My Father

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Hands of My Father

A Hearing Boy, His Deaf Parents, and the Language of Love

by Myron Uhlberg

Hands of My Father
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  • Published:
    Feb 2009, 256 pages

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Beth Hemke Shapiro

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Beyond the Book

Sign Language & Deaf Culture

Hundreds of years of evolution have shaped American Sign Language (ASL), today the main sign language for deaf people in the U.S., parts of Canada and Mexico, and many other countries around the world. Derived in part from the personal hand signal repertoires of many deaf individuals, ASL has grown to become a fully functional language, a medium of higher education, and a central part of Deaf culture.

The deaf have always developed their own means of communicating through signals, long before any attempt was made to standardize these into a formal language. Nearly three hundred years ago, a spate of deaf births on Martha's Vineyard gave rise to a unique sign language on the island. One of the earliest attempts to extend beyond a small community and create a consistent and teachable language is credited to Abbe Charles Michel de l'Epee, who developed Old French Sign Language in the 18th century. In 1817, Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet co-founded the ...

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