Language Along with identity and power language is a key concept in Deaf

Language along with identity and power language is a

This preview shows page 15 - 17 out of 32 pages.

Language Along with identity and power, language is a key concept in Deaf Studies, perhaps the key concept as it was the revelation of the linguistic nature of sign languages that opened the way for Deaf Studies to enter the public discourse within wider civil rights and cultural studies movements. Though others before William Stokoe have asserted the linguistic status of sign languages, 90 Stokoe was the first to validate that signs, like spoken words, could be broken down into smaller parts, which he initially referred to as cheremes to distinguish them from their spoken counterparts, phonemes. 91 Linguists, however, opted instead to expand the meanings of phonology beyond sound-based units to include the visual/kinetic/tactile units of signs, which include particular hand- shapes, movements, movement paths, palm orientations, and nonmanual markers. 92 Once these sign parts were documented and observed, sign languages were seen, like all other human languages, to be complex systems operating according to an intricately governed structure. When Stokoe proposed the linguistic nature of signed languages, the idea was so radical that even native Deaf signers thought it preposterous. Yet, the weight and clarity of his vision soon caught on, and Stokoe’s Linguistics Research Laboratory (established 1971) at Gallaudet University became the epicenter of a paradigm shift in the under- standing of human language. 93 Soon after, Stokoe formed the journal Sign Language Studies, which began to collect the first articles on a wide variety of topics regarding <i>Open Your Eyes : Deaf Studies Talking</i>, edited by H-Dirksen L. Bauman, University of Minnesota Press, 2007. ProQuest Ebook Central, . Created from washington on 2019-09-21 14:41:03. Copyright © 2007. University of Minnesota Press. All rights reserved.
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16 H - D I R K S E N L . B A U M A N sign languages. 94 In addition to the East Coast work on signed languages, Ursula Bel- lugi formed the Laboratory for Cognitive Neuroscience in 1970 at the Salk Institute in California where she and colleagues began exploring the neurological underpinnings of sign language to find out, as the title of her book with Howard Poizner and Edward Klima puts it, What the Hands Reveal about the Brain. 95 From these two centers of explo- ration, collections of articles followed, and a growing body of literature began to form by the late 1970s and early 1980s. 96 One of the early tasks of early sign linguistics was to dispel centuries of misunder- standings regarding sign languages. 97 Principle among these misunderstandings is that sign language answers the historic yearning for a pre-Babel era of a universal language. Sign languages, however, are as diverse as spoken language, with migration patterns all their own. Though Deaf Americans and Deaf Britons live in English-speaking soci- eties, their sign languages — ASL and British Sign Language (BSL) — are mutually unin- telligible; in fact, fingerspelling English words to each other would only deepen mis-
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