Language in Hand: Why Sign Came Before Speech

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"Stokoe recounts in Language in Hand how inspiration grew out of his original discovery in the 1950s and '60s that deaf people who signed were using a true language with constructions that did not derive from spoken English. This investigation calls upon decades of personal experience and published research to refute the recently entrenched claims that humans have a special, innate learning faculty for language and that speech equates with language. Integrating current findings in linguistics, semiotics, and anthropology, Stokoe fashions a closely reasoned argument that suggests how our human ancestors' powers of observation and natural hand movements could have evolved into signed morphemes." "Stokoe also proposes how the primarily gestural expression of language with vocal support shifted to primarily vocal language with gestural accompaniment. When describing this transition, however, he never loses sight of the significance of humans in the natural world and the role of environmental stimuli in the development of language. Stokoe illustrates this contention with fascinating observations of small contemporary ethnic groups such as the Assinobian Nakotas, a Native American group from Montana that intermingle their spoken and signed languages depending upon cultural imperatives." "Language in Hand also presents innovative thoughts on classifiers in American Sign Language and their similarity to certain elements of spoken languages, convincing evidence that speech originally copied sign language forms before developing unrelated conventions through usage. Stokoe concludes Language in Hand with an hypothesis on how the acceptance of sign language as the first language of humans could revolutionize the education of infants, both deaf and hearing, who, like early humans, have the full capacity for language without speech."--BOOK JACKET.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Signed language preceded spoken language in the evolutionary process, according to Stokoe (English and linguistics, Gallaudet Univ.), who passed away in April. His book persuasively demonstrates the worldwide diversity of signed languages and their viability as vehicles of both meaning and syntax. First, Stokoe explains with many examples how gestures can be true sentences (with both noun and verb components). He then supports his proposed order of linguistic development from four approaches: exploring the unique ability of visible signs to resemble what they represent, comparing human anatomy involved in gesture and speech to the anatomy of chimpanzees and other primates, examining signed languages still in use today among both hearing and hearing-impaired communities, and observing linguistic development in children. In this way, Stokoe not only effectively promotes the use of sign language in deaf education but also hopes to broaden the views of all who endeavor to help students achieve literacy. The complexity of signed language is examined in detail in Signed Languages through its selection of 13 papers presented at the 1998 Theoretical Issues in Sign Language Research Conference. This volume presents papers not published elsewhere. Moreover, more than half of the chapters discuss signed languages from other parts of the world, such as Sign Language of the Netherlands and the Hausa Sign Language from Nigeria. The editors divide the work into traditional areas of language study, such as morphology, syntax, psycholinguistics, and poetics. Further examination of the role of signed language in linguistic development is available in Sarah Taub's Language in the Body: Iconicity and Metaphor in American Sign Language (Cambridge Univ., 2001). Both volumes are highly recommended for specialized linguistics and deaf studies collections. Marianne Orme, West Lafayette, IN Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781563681035
  • Publisher: Gallaudet University Press
  • Publication date: 6/28/2001
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 232
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Table of Contents

1 An Idea That Would Not Go Away 1
2 Chasing the Language Butterfly 17
3 Gesture to Language to Speech 31
4 Signed Languages and Language Essentials 52
5 Language Signs 67
6 Descartes Thought Wrong 78
7 Language Metamorphosis 103
8 Language in a Chrysalis 119
9 Emerging from the Cocoon 131
10 Families of Signed Languages 147
11 Languages in Parallel 162
12 Visible Verbs Become Spoken 176
13 A Difference That Makes a Difference 193
Notes 203
Bibliography 215
Index 223
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