Stokoe, William C.

Hearing. Joined Gallaudet College as a professor of English in 1955; in the late 1950s, began research investigations into sign language that revealed American Sign Language to be a separate, distinct language in its own right, and not a "corrupt" form of English or a crude collection of gestures, as people had thought for many years. This work resulted in the publication of Sign Language Structure (1960) and A Dictionary of American Sign Language on Linguistic Principles (1965). He was the first person to apply linguistic principles to ASL, and through this work sparked not only other persons' research into ASL but also into other sign languages of the world. Founder of the Linguistics Research Laboratory at Gallaudet College. Retired from Gallaudet 1984, but continued research and editing in ASL linguistics and related linguistic fields until his death. Founder of the journal Sign Languge Studies and of Linstok Press, a publishing firm dedicated to books on sign language research. Honorary doctorate from Gallaudet University, 1988, plus honorary doctorates from the University of Copenhagen (Denmark) and Madonna University (Michigan). Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and member of the Cosmos Club of Washington, DC. Died at Chevy Chase, MD, after a long illness. Book-length biography is Seeing Language in Sign: The Work of William C. Stokoe (1996).
Deaf Life, Jan. 1993, p.10-15; Feb. 1993, p.18-26; April 1993, p.12-19; Linguistics of American Sign Language, p.215-220; Gallaudet Today, Fall 2000, p.18-21; Deaf Heritage, p.365, 367; Deaf in America: Voices from a Culture, p.79-81; New Horizons, Spring-Summer 2000, p.13.
1919-4 April 2000