French Sign Language in Togo

Valerie Sutton signwriting at MAC.COM
Tue Aug 21 14:16:25 UTC 2007

SignWriting List
August 21, 2007

On Aug 21, 2007, at 2:06 AM, GerardM wrote:
> Working on languages in OmegaWiki I came across the fact that FSL  
> is taught in one school in Togo.. I wrote some ideas and questions  
> that it raised for me. Maybe you know some of the answers .. :)
> Thanks, Gerard
> togo.html

Hello Gerard and Everyone -
Thank you for this message and question. The question is more for  
linguists. For example, on the Sign Language Linguist List (SLLING)  
these are the kinds of topics they discuss...Here on the SignWriting  
List we discuss writing any signed language, so if someone from Togo  
wanted to show us some of their signs, we would write it for them,  
whether it stems from French Sign Language or not!

As you know, back in the 1800's, a teacher from the US with a French  
background...Mr. Gallaudet...studied French Sign Language in France  
and brought it home with him to the although American Sign  
Language is a unique language in its own right, there are French Sign  
Language influences, just as there are French spoken words in our  
spoken English language...

So French Sign Language in general has had "influence" on a number of  
signed languages around the world. I know that because when I lived  
in Denmark and worked with the schools for the Deaf there, they  
explained to me that their famous teacher Castberg, had also studied  
in France at the same time as the American Gallaudet Danish  
Sign Language also has some French Sign Language influence, even  
though Danish Sign Language is truly a separate language from French  
Sign Language...

It just may be that in Togo their schools had teachers from France.  
Then they learned French Sign Language in school...and of course  
individual Deaf families out in the wilderness or in a remote area  
may never go to school at all...and in those cases, those families  
use their own unique signed languages and there are researchers all  
over the world who study those unique signed languages...

But how does SIL and the Ethnologue know about such unique signed  
languages in the wilderness in Togo? is hard to document those  
signed languages...

You may be interested in a new book my Margalit Fox from the New York  
Times called Talking Hands about this exact subject...a unique signed  
language developed in a Tribe of people in the Middle that  
may not appear in the SIL Ethnologue.

Here is information:

On Jun 30, 2007, at 4:49 PM, Margalit Fox wrote:

> Dear colleagues:
>         I'm delighted to announce that the Web site for my new  
> book, "Talking Hands: What Sign Language Reveals About the Mind,"  
> is now live online. The link is:
>         ( will also take you there.)
>         "Talking Hands" will be published on August 21 by Simon &  
> Schuster. Copies may be pre-ordered through my Web site at any time.
>         Written for a general readership, "Talking Hands" is a  
> narrative nonfiction look at the signed languages of the Deaf, and  
> what science is learning from them (a great deal, it turns out)  
> about how all human language, signed and spoken, operates inside  
> our heads. The narrative of the book follows four linguists --  
> Wendy Sandler, Mark Aronoff, Carol Padden and Irit Meir -- as they  
> unravel a mysterious sign language that has arisen, unbidden, in a  
> remote Bedouin village that has an inordinately high rate of  
> hereditary deafness. Because this sign language has arisen  
> completely on its own, outside the influence of any other language,  
> it offers the linguists a once-in-a-lifetime chance to observe the  
> human "language instinct" in action -- to watch what happens when  
> the mind has to make an entire language from scratch.
>         In short, "Talking Hands" is written for anyone interested  
> in language, the mind and journeys to exotic places. More  
> information about the book, including excerpts, reviews,  
> photographs and news of public appearances, is available on the Web  
> site.
>         I warmly encourage you to visit the site, and to share this  
> e-mail with your colleagues, students and friends. Please don't  
> hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about the book, or  
> about the site.
>         With all best wishes,
>         Margo
> fox at


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