SASLJ Vol. 2 No. 2 - Page 26

Sign Language Structure Stokoe, Jr. assumption of the inferiority of the deaf and the stereotype of the deaf as “dumb”. There seems to be less public sympathy for the deaf apparently because of the ignorance of the gravity of the handicap and because of its invisibility. The Social Science Research Council reported that the deaf were held more in contempt than the blind, the crippled, and the aged (Baker et al., 1953). The public is simply not aware that deafness may be the most severe, socially, of all handicaps. ‘Thus the deaf, first isolated from normal social relations by the fact of physical handicap become segregated as a group through the operation of institutional patterns in the general culture. Admittedly little is known concerning the social condition of the deaf; few sociologists have been interested in the problems presented. The majority of research studies on the deaf have been made by psychologists who have often reported contradictory findings with respect to the intelligence and achievements of the deaf (Meyerson, 1955). Much of the confusion in these and other areas seems to result from a lack of attention to the social factors or variables involved in personality development and to a lack of recognition of the formation of a deaf sub-cultural group. ‘The most recent experimental studies seem to indicate that the average deaf person is of normal intelligence (Hiskey, 1956). The so-called differences between the deaf and the hearing are largely the result of differential social experience (Getz, 1953). ‘There is much to be explored in this entire area. Sociological research in this undeveloped field can contribute much to the understanding both of the individual problems of the deaf and of the social problems associated with acoustical impairment.’ 0.21. The simplest representation of possible communication behavior of American deaf persons would be a line with these extremes: at one end of completely normal American English exchange, the ‘listener’ with perfect lipreading ability receiving all that the speaker with perfect articulation is saying. At the opposite end would be a completely visual exchange, the ‘speaker’ and the ‘hearer’ using only a system of gestures, facial expressions, and manual configurations as symbols. Of course, neither end is reached in actuality. Although a very few individuals can attain high proficiency at lipreading, or speech-reading, under perfect conditions, and many develop excellent speech, most deaf persons reserve this mode for contact with hearing persons. The purely visual communication with no admixture of English is rare, though it may be that the less formal education he has the nearer the individual’s communication would approach the purely visual. But here the linear representation breaks down. Besides these first two modes of communication, digital symbolization of the orthography of English is also available to the deaf. Therefore the non-oral communication of the typical American deaf person may be anything from ‘pure’ English printed on the air, so to speak, to sign language with or without an admixture of English words or word-derived symbols. But again, the actually observed communication is a combination in all degrees of these two with or without vocal, whispered, or silent articulation as supplement or accompaniment. In other parts of the English-speaking world there are other ways that the manual alphabets and the signs are combined. In American sign language, as aforesaid, English words manually spelled are often treated just as if they were signs in a stretch of utterance, and some signs (fewer than one would expect) are made by a hand configuration which recalls the initial of an English word that is a translation of the sign. But here too there is regional and individual difference: the magazine of the National Association of the Deaf in a series of illustrated short articles has been advocating a greater use of the initial-sign correspondences (The silent worker). In England a quite SASLJ, Vol. 2, No. 2 – Fall/Winter 2018 26