The Study of Signed Languages

Essays in Honor of William C. Stokoe

1st Edition

Edited by David F. Armstrong, Michael A. Karchmer, and John Vickrey Van Cleve

Categories: Linguistics
Imprint: Gallaudet University Press
Paperback : 9781563685101, 264 pages, February 2011
Ebook : 9781563681875, 298 pages, October 2009
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A tribute to William C. Stokoe and his pioneering research on American Sign Language.



In 1999, many of today’s notable researchers assembled at a special conference in honor of William C. Stokoe to explore the remarkable research that grew out of his original insights on American Sign Language. The Study of Signed Languages presents the fascinating findings from that conference.

       Part 1, Historical Perspectives, begins with a description of the decline of sign language studies in the 1800s. Past research on signed languages and its relationship to language origins theory follows, along with a consideration of modality and conflicting agendas for its study.

       In Part 2, Language Origins, the first entry intrigues with the possibility that sign language could answer conundrums posed by Noam Chomsky’s linguistic theories. The next essay considers how to build a better language model by citing continuity, ethology, and Stokoe’s work as key elements. Stokoe’s own research on the gestural theory of language origins is examined in the section’s closing chapter.

       Part 3, Diverse Populations, delineates the impact of sign language research on black deaf communities in America, on deaf education, on research into variation in sign language, and even on sign communication and the motor functioning of autistic children and others. In its wide-ranging, brilliant scholarship, The Study of Signed Languages serves as a fitting tribute to William C. Stokoe and his work.


David F. Armstrong is an anthropologist and a former executive director at Gallaudet University.

Michael A. Karchmer is a former professor in the Department of Education Foundations and Research at Gallaudet University and former director of the Gallaudet Research Institute.

John Vickrey Van Cleve is Professor Emeritus of History at Gallaudet University.