SASLJ Vol. 2 No. 2 - Page 124

Afterword Meier Names In their 1988 book Deaf in America, Carol Padden and Tom Humphries discuss the view that the Deaf community once had of signing. Nothing was called American Sign Language or ASL; instead the language of Deaf people was simply “the sign language” (pp. 60, 72). However, when we identify a new planet, a new animal species, or a new language, we like to have a distinctive name for it. Stokoe brought the attention of linguistics to a heretofore unfamiliar language. He seems at first to have been uncertain as to how to refer to this newly-identified language. In the 1960 imprint, he variously says: “the sign language of the American deaf” (Sections 0 & 0.16), or “the American sign language” with the definite article but without caps (Sections 0.13, 0.16, 0.21, 1.40, 1.404). The name “American sign language”, without an article and without caps, appears just three times, as best I can tell (Sections 0.12., 0.16, 0.21). 1 He wrote about “American signs” (as opposed to ASL signs). By the time that Stokoe published the Dictionary of American Sign Language (Stokoe, Casterline, & Croneberg, 1965), he had settled on “American sign language” (p. ix, xxiii) or “the American sign language” (pp. vii, viii, & x). The abbreviation “ASL” appears in the later pages of the introduction (and in the appendices). In the 1976 preface to the new edition of DASL, Stokoe frequently refers to “ASL”. How would we refer to the deaf users of the newly identified language? They are Deaf, with the capital D signifying their cultural and linguistic allegiances (Woodward, 1975; Padden & Humphries, 1988). With the recognition of ASL as an independent language and with awareness of the cultural traditions of Deaf signers, we have come to understand that the Deaf are a minority community within the larger fabric of American culture. We have also come to understand that, like other minority groups, the members of the Deaf community have all-too-often suffered discrimination. Tom Humphries sought a name for that discrimination; it was not racism or sexism but was instead “audism.” Humphries wrote that “[n]aming it gives a better handle on it and makes it somehow less frightening.” In her commentary, Erin Wilkinson suggests that the word conferred power on deaf people: “Not only did the coinage of audism recognize deaf people’s struggle as discriminated-against people, it also validated their frustrations over the discrimination and oppression due to their deafness.” Other suggestions for new terms have not taken root. Stokoe advocated a new label for the study of the internal structure of signs: cherology; see his section 1.0. But this term has not been adopted within linguistics. Instead, the prevailing belief within linguistics has been that the internal structure of signs and words is fundamentally similar (although perhaps not identical). Hence the English term phonology has been extended to the study of the internal structure of signs. However, the Deaf community may now be making a distinction between an initialized sign PHONOLOGY near the ear that refers to spoken language and another sign PHONOLOGY that has a finger-wiggling movement of the 1 In subsequent printings of Stokoe’s paper, such as the 2005 reprinting in the Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, some—but not all of these usages would be capitalized. SASLJ, Vol. 2, No. 2 – Fall/Winter 2018 124