Seeing Language in Sign - The Work of William C. Stokoe

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Through the 1950s, most educators at Gallaudet College condescendingly dismissed the signs used by deaf students among themselves as a poor substitute for speech. This would all change, however, when William C. Stokoe arrived to teach English literature. Instead of accepting the conventional wisdom about sign, he saw something startling, something different. Stokoe saw the elements of language. Seeing Language in Sign tells the story of how one person completely reversed the reigning critical assessment of sign by proving that it was a true language with a full complement of linguistic components, thereby revolutionizing the governing theories of all language research. Stokoe's achievement was not easy, however, and he did not succeed overnight. Without a specific linguistics background, his observations were met with amusement in some quarters and outright scorn in others by hearing and deaf authorities alike. Stokoe's total commitment without self-aggrandizement, however, enabled him to persevere through the years. His inspiring efforts described vividly in these pages launched new waves of thought on linguistics in general and also instilled in deaf people everywhere in this country pride in their newly recognized, native American Sign Language