Armstrong interview continued...
GUPN: How did you become associated with Dr. Stokoe?
DA: I first met Dr. Stokoe in 1980 when I came to work in the planning office at Gallaudet. At that time I was completing my dissertation in anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania. I shared some of my work on the origin of language with Dr. Stokoe and he was immediately interested in publishing it. The question of how language arose in human evolutionary history had long been one of his interests. In fact, many people don't realize that he was one of the major figures in the rebirth of scientific interest in this question. Later Dr. Stokoe invited me to serve on the SLS editorial board.
GUPN: What has Dr. Stokoe's lifetime dedication to the study of sign language meant to the discipline?
DA: Bill Stokoe put Sign Language research on the map. He literally provided the scientific and philosophical substructure on which all subsequent theories have been built. The great range of ideas that have emerged from the field, contributed by numerous scholars, are testimony to the profundity of his original insights and his continuing efforts. It is testimony to the greatness of the man himself that he continues to be productive even though he is now past his 80th birthday and suffers from a serious illness.
GUPN: In the context of its brief history, how would you characterize the state of "the study of sign language" and sign linguistics today?
DA: I would say that it is in a state of productive ferment, reflective of the state of linguistics and anthropology generally. Competing and fundamentally different ideas about the nature of language and how it emerges are being debated in the field. I think it is a very exciting time and that an understanding of the nature of signed langauges will be pivotal in the resolution of these debates.