In association with the ASL Program in Penn’s Department of Linguistics
Human beings have an innate need to learn and use language. This need is usually satisfied by pushing short bursts of air through the larynx and lips, an act otherwise known as speaking. But for other humans, language is expressed through the manipulation of the digits and hands, an act otherwise known as signing, or sign language. Over the years, various kinds of signing communities have emerged. There are so-called “village signing communities,” heavily localized communities of deaf and hearing signers sharing a common genetic variant for deafness. There are national communities of signers, with sign language schools, substantial bodies of literature, and formal political associations that work to ensure their members enjoy full human rights despite their geographic dispersal among non-signing people.
Joseph Murray, Professor of Deaf Studies at Gallaudet University, draws valuable insights about globalization from the rise of International Sign and the emergence of transnational communities of signing people.