SASLJ Vol. 2 No. 2 - Page 19

Sign Language Structure Stokoe, Jr. were doubtless encountered by l’Épée when he met his first uninstructed deaf-mutes; but its ‘vocabulary’ also included many coinages, conventional signs, and signs derived from the ‘methodical’ signs of the schools. Pelissier’s work, as the title indicates, attempts to use the language as a means of dispelling the mystery which had surrounded the teaching of the deaf since the middle ages. Does one wish to teach French to a deaf-mute? Let him learn the latter’s language and proceed from there. This rationale as well as the language was imported to America, as this resolution of the World Congress of the Deaf held in St. Louis, in 1904, proclaims: ‘The educated deaf have a right to be heard in these matters and they shall be heard. ‘Resolved, that the oral method, which withholds from the congenitally and quasi- congenitally deaf the use of the language of signs outside the schoolroom, robs the children of their birthright; that those champions of the oral method, who have been carrying on a warfare, both overt and covert, against the use of the language of signs by the adult, are not friends of the deaf; and that in our opinion, it is the duty of every teacher of the deaf, no matter what method he or she uses, to have a working command of the sign language’ (Annals, 1904). American writing on the language itself may be represented by three manuals: Joseph Schuyler Long, The sign language: a manual of signs, being a descriptive vocabulary of signs used by the deaf of the United States and Canada, Omaha, 1952; lst. ed., Des Moines, 1918. J.W. Michaels, A handbook of the sign language of the deaf, Atlanta, Ga., 1923. Father Daniel D. Higgins, How to talk to the deaf, St. Louis, 1923. These all describe the method of making the signs and to some extent of phrasing utterances in the language. The greatest space in each is devoted to an English-Sign vocabulary using illustrations and verbal descriptions of the sign that translates the English word. Grammatical descriptions and prescriptions are implied in the linking of each sign to an English word with its inevitable relegation to a certain part of speech. There is a similar kind of manual of the Australian sign language: How to converse with the deaf in sign language as used in the Australian Catholic schools of the deaf, by teachers of the schools at Waratah and Castle Hill, N.S.W. (1942). This sign language brought to Australia from the Dominican School in Cabra, Ireland, has some signs identical with present American signs, others which seem related, but a great many signs using, as do present American ‘wine’ and eighteenth century French ‘vin’, a ‘letter’ of the one-hand manual alphabet as an element of the sign. Of these four handbooks, the Australian and Michaels’ seem to show a greater adherence to the methodical sign system; the latter giving signs for ‘verb’, ‘substantive’, etc., in the Sicard manner; the former rendering such words as ‘the’, ‘he’, ‘is’ by specific signs in a manner foreign to the ‘natural’ sign language and having signs likewise for prefixes and suffixes of English words. SASLJ, Vol. 2, No. 2 – Fall/Winter 2018 19