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American Annals of the Deaf

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Show of Hands
A Natural History of Sign Language

David F. Armstrong

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Read reviews: Choice, Reference & Research Book News, Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, The Midwest Book Review.

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$35.00 e-book

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From Choice

Anthropologist Armstrong (Gallaudet Univ.) offers a sweeping study of sign languages in human history. Drawing primarily on the author’s previously published works (e.g., The Gestural Origin of Languages), this compilation will serve primarily advanced undergraduates and others with specialized knowledge in sign language linguistics. Two themes frame the collection: the inherent link between bodies and communication, and how linguistic studies of sign languages enhance scholarship across diverse disciplines, including geography, history, and sociology. Armstrong’s key argument is that gestures, rather than speech, represent humans’ original language. In addition to emphasizing the strongly visual nature of human beings, Armstrong points to sign language acquisition by other primates as supporting evidence. The author details a sustained use of visual language from ancient politicians and members of certain monastic orders to American Indian tribes and culturally deaf people. In the process, he also maps the evolution of sign language linguistic studies, including a laudatory description of William Stokoe’s original work on American Sign Language. The book concludes with an assessment of the nonlinear progression of sign languages, the impact of technology, and the valuable knowledge that generations of deaf signers can offer to communicate skillfully in a 21st-century, highly visual context. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above.

David F. Armstrong is an anthropologist and former Executive Director and Budget Director, Gallaudet University, Washington, DC.

Print Edition

ISBN 978-1-56368-488-3, 5˝ x 8˝ paperback, 126 pages, photograph, figures



ISBN 978-1-56368-487-6


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