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Sign Language Structure Stokoe, Jr. fear of the institution itself (his perception of it as a “hospital” or “nut-house”), and third, his amazement and pleasure at finding other deaf girls and boys like himself. Homesickness and fear disappear as he becomes a member of the newly-discovered in-group. ‘It is also here that many acquire for the first time a new means of visual communication, the language of signs, which becomes not only a special language of a sub-cultural group but serves as a means of identifying the deaf from the hearing. Although oral schools emphasize speechreading and speech, the plain fact is that the deaf as a group use the sign language among themselves. According to best, 78.2 per cent of the deaf used sign language and only 1.0 per cent used speech alone (Best, 1943, p. 203). ‘In 1955, 78.6 per cent of the schools for the deaf taught by means of the oral method, only 5.1 per cent taught by the non-oral method and 14.3 percent by the combined method. However, only 19 per cent of the public schools and 24 per cent of the private schools reported restrictions upon the use of communication methods outside of the classroom which can only mean that the sign language was permitted in most of the schools using oral teaching methods (Annals, January 1956). A study of the sign language, how it is acquired and transmitted, the significance of its content, and so on, would throw considerable light upon the entire process of communication as well as indicate the thought-process of the deaf. ‘Most deaf persons leave school at the end of the grammar school period, but an almost equal number leave before they have completed the work. In today’s competitive market this means that they bear an additional handicap besides deafness itself; lack of schooling is one reason why the deaf are largely found in the lower-paid occupations. The deaf may therefore most frequently be found in the lower socio-economic classes, considering the prevalence of deafness among children of the lower classes and the occupational categories they largely fill in adulthood (U.S. Office of Education, 1936). ‘After the school years the deaf person tends to continue his group association with other deaf persons throughout life, through alumni associations, state societies of the deaf, religious and welfare organizations, churches for the deaf and various fraternal orders. The deaf have organized their own newspaper and magazines, and they have established their own homes for the aged deaf. The extent of membership in formal organizations is not known, but it is known that the deaf will go to considerable extremes to seek each other out, that they prefer the company of the deaf to that of the hearing and feel more at ease with other deaf persons (Pinter, Fusfeld, & Brunschwig, 1937). Among the adult deaf, in-group feelings are strong and group loyalty is intense. The extent to which group solidarity might be expressed was indicated in the movement in the nineteenth century to establish a deaf-mute Utopia in the West; Congress was petitioned to set aside a state or territory for deaf-mutes only (Annals, 1858). ‘Marriage patterns also indicate the tendency for the deaf to associate with each other. In the only extensive study of the marriage of the deaf, published in 1898, Fay found that 85.6 per cent of the married deaf had married other deaf persons. One preliminary study of attitudes of deaf college students shows that only 5 per cent would prefer to date a hearing person rather than a deaf person, and about the same proportion would prefer to marry a hearing person. About 65 per cent have already made up their minds to marry a deaf person. ‘Among the other factors enforcing the social isolation of the deaf from the hearing world is public opinion, as expressed in the attitudes of the hearing majority. These appear to be similar to the fear and hostility patterns which appear in other dominant-minority relations; there is the SASLJ, Vol. 2, No. 2 – Fall/Winter 2018 25