Language in Hand: Why Sign Came Before Speech

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Gallaudet University Press, 2001 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 227 pages
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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. Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Language in Hand: Why Sign Came Before Speech

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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 ... Read full review


An Idea That Would Not Go Away
Chasing the Language Butterfly
Gesture to Language to Speech
Signed Languages and Language Essentials
Language Signs
Descartes Thought Wrong
Language Metamorphosis
Emerging from the Cocoon
Families of Signed Languages
Languages in Parallel
Visible Verbs Become Spoken
A Difference That Makes a Difference

Language in a Chrysalis

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About the author (2001)

Stokoe is well known for his pioneering research on sign language. He is a Professor Emeritus at Gallaudet University.

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