This Fall, after a three year hiatus, Sign Language Studies will begin publication under the new editorial direction of David F. Armstong. Founded in 1972 by the preeminent sign language scholar, William C. Stokoe, SLS has long been considered the leading journal in its field, indeed the very first of its kind. Recently, Mr. Armstrong discussed the history of SLS with Gallaudet University Press News, explaining where the journal has come from and where he would like it to go from here.
Gallaudet University Press News: Why did Dr. Stokoe begin publishing SLS, and/or what was the impetus behind its creation?
David F. Armstrong: Dr. Stokoe began publishing SLS as the result of encouragement from Thomas Sebeok of Indiana University, one of the major figures in Semiotics. Semiotics is the general study of human sign systems - signs here meaning the components of human communication in the most inclusive sense. Dr. Stokoe felt that there was not then an adequate outlet for publishing work on signed languages, as the linguistics journals at the time did not seem receptive. At first, SLS was published through Indiana University, later the Mouton Company in the Netherlands, and finally, after the ownership of Mouton changed, by Dr. Stokoe's own corporation, Linstok Press, in the late 1970's.
GUPN: What impact did SLS have on its field when it was first released in 1972?
DA: SLS had a profound impact on the field of sign language research. In fact, on could almost say that it enabled the field to get started as a serious scholarly endeavor. It provided an outlet for the work of young researchers trying to establish themselves in the field, and most of the major researchers have published in it. For science and scholarship to flourish, there must be a vehicle for publishing and disseminating the latest findings and theories. Progress occurs when these results are discussed and debated, leading to further refinements. It is my hope that SLS will continue to serve this function for the fields of sign language research and deaf studies.