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Interpreting, History of

  • By: Carolyn Ball
  • In: The SAGE Deaf Studies Encyclopedia
  • Edited by: Genie Gertz & Patrick Boudreault
  • Subject:Physical Disabilities, Otorhinolaryngology (Ears, Nose, & Throat)

It is not known when interpreters first began to practice in the United States, but the need for interpreting likely coincided with advancements in Deaf education in the early 1800s. One of the earliest documented examples of formal interpreting occurred in 1818 when Laurent Clerc addressed the president and U.S. Congress in sign language. While Clerc signed, Henry Hudson spoke his words aloud. Krentz (2000) wrote that when Clerc concluded his address, the chambers were silent out of respect for him.

A more complete record of American Sign Language (ASL) and interpreting dates from 1957, when William C. Stokoe, known as the father of sign language linguistics, began the task of analyzing the language of signs. Stokoe, a faculty member in the English department at Gallaudet ...

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