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Sign language should not be confused with "body language", a type of nonverbal communication.
Wherever communities of deaf people exist, sign languages have developed, and are at the cores of local deaf cultures.
Groups of deaf people have used sign languages throughout history.
One of the earliest written records of a sign language is from the fifth century BC, in Plato's Cratylus, where Socrates says: "If we hadn't a voice or a tongue, and wanted to express things to one another, wouldn't we try to make signs by moving our hands, head, and the rest of our body, just as dumb people do at present?
" Until the 19th century, most of what is known about historical sign languages is limited to the manual alphabets (fingerspelling systems) that were invented to facilitate transfer of words from a spoken language to a sign language, rather than documentation of the language itself.
Nine of its letters can be traced to earlier alphabets, and 17 letters of the modern two-handed alphabet can be found among the two sets of 26 handshapes depicted.
Charles de La Fin published a book in 1692 describing an alphabetic system where pointing to a body part represented the first letter of the part (e.g.Although signing is used primarily by the deaf and hard of hearing, it is also used by hearing individuals, such as those unable to physically speak, or those who have trouble with spoken language due to a disability or condition (augmentative and alternative communication).It is unclear how many sign languages currently exist worldwide.Clerc went to the United States with Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet to found the American School for the Deaf in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1817.