The authors first dispel the story of Epée inventing French Sign Language, but use the story to show how the story itself has been galvanized into an important touchstone for French Deaf people, symbolizing a shift from Deaf people’s isolation to the rise of a real community.
In this case, the community is more important than the truth behind the language’s development.
If nothing else, the stories also serve to paint an alarming portrait—the dismantling of an entire culture—to people who are not Deaf.
“A Different Center,” the third chapter, distinguishes between the terms “Hearing,” “Hard-of-Hearing,” and “Deaf.” The authors claim that all three have very “‘backward definitions’” (p.
In the fifth chapter, Padden and Humphries discuss how signed language is thought of much differently than it was in the past.
In fact, the authors claim that “signed languages are human languages with the potential for rich expression” (p. Deaf culture has experienced a dramatic shift in the way they think of signed language—“a new self-consciousness”—and the authors go about examining performances in which sign language is used.
Padden and Humphries (1988) contend that Deaf people have “established patterns of cultural transmission and a common language …
all basic ingredients for a rich and inventive culture,” yet they argue that little to nothing has been known about Deaf culture itself (p. The first chapter features anecdotes about growing up Deaf and the popular misconceptions that surround it.
34), which is tantamount to silencing an entire culture.
Padden and Humphries use this story as a cautionary tale for Americans, contending the American deaf community could be silenced in the same way if similar reforms came through.