Article published in:Dimensions of gesture
Edited by Adam Kendon and Tommaso Russo Cardona
[Gesture 8:1] 2008
► pp. 124–138
The discordance between Voice and Gesture in Joseph-Marie de Gérando (1772–1842)
The comparison between Joseph-Marie de Gérando and Étienne Bonnot de Condillac allows us to pose some questions — as pertinent today as they were in the eighteenth century — that have to do with the fully linguistic nature of sign language (SL), that is found fully exemplified, obviously, in vocal language (VL). The questions are: (a) From a semiotic point of view, what is the relation between these two forms of language that are so differently constituted: vocal language vs. a visual-manual form of language? (b) Can a language be fully linguistic if it is not a written language? That is, can a “language” be so called when, even if it displays a metalinguistic capacity, it cannot be written? Such questions had already been posed by de Gérando who, basing himself on the earlier teachings of Charles-Michel de l’Épée, followed an anthropological or ethnographic orienation which, according to de Gérando, Condillac did not have. De Gérando, that is to say, was more interested in the differences between languages than he was in their uniformity.
Keywords: sign language, eighteenth century, vocal language, France
Published online: 20 May 2008