Sign Language Research: Pre-1980

For centuries, sign languages were not formally regarded as “languages” at all, and thus never became the object of scientific inquiry. This entry emphasizes the important period 1955–1980 in which sign languages were analyzed in a new way, by researchers with different academic traditions and points of departure. A major turning point came in 1960, when William Stokoe and his team summarized five years of observations and analysis in a small publication called “Sign Language Structure.” A unique dictionary of American Sign Language (ASL) followed in 1965. Using this foundation, research began to flourish in a number of academic centers around the world. Methodologies were tested and refined, dissertations were produced, and by 1980, sign languages were viewed in an entirely new light.

This period is ...

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