Israeli Sign Language
|Israeli Sign Language|
|שפת הסימנים הישראלית
śfàt ha-simaním ha-iśraelít
שס"י shássi [abbr.]
|Native speakers||10,000 (2003)|
The history of ISL goes back to 1873 in Germany, where Marcus Reich, a German Jew, opened a special school for Jewish deaf children. At the time, it was considered one of the best of its kind, which made it a lodestone to Jewish deaf children from all over the world, as well as non-Jews. In 1932 several teachers from this school opened the first school for Jewish deaf children in Jerusalem. The sign language used in the Jerusalemite school was influenced by the German Sign Language (DGS), but other sign languages or signing systems brought by immigrants also contributed to the emerging language, which started out as a pidgin. A local creole gradually emerged, which became ISL.
ISL still shares many features and vocabulary items with DGS, although it is too far apart today to be considered a dialect of the latter.
During the 1940s ISL became the language of a well established community of Jewish deaf people in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Today ISL is the most used and taught sign language in Israel, and serves as the main mode of communication for most deaf people in Israel, including Jewish, Muslim and Christian Arabs, Druze, and Bedouins. Some Arab, Druze, and Bedouin towns and villages have sign languages of their own.
- Meir, Sandler, Padden, & Aronoff, (to appear). "Emerging sign languages." In Marschark & Spencer, eds., Oxford Handbook of Deaf Studies, Language, and Education.
- Meir, Irit & Sandler, Wendy. (2007) A Language in Space: The Story of Israel Sign Language. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.