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Seeing Language in Sign The Work of William C. Stokoe (Jane Maher) (Z-Library)
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Page xv the astonishing gathering in Washington of 7000 deaf people (and their eighty-odd sign languages) from allover the world for an unprecedented conference and grand festival of sign arts The Deaf Way.
Stokoe himself gave a talk at The Deaf Way, and the whole gathering gave an extraordinary sense of a rounding and completion to the work he had started some thirty years before. Indeed, another person who had attended The Deaf Way told me that he had seen Stokoe, the previous day, walking very quietly through it all, with the slight, perhaps unconscious smile of a father. "Life has many bright moments" Stokoe wrote me later, "though few so overwhelming as The Deaf Way" In 1990, Gallaudet,
making partial amends for its ousting of Stokoe just a few years before, awarded him an honorary doctor of letters degree in recognition of his central role in the elucidation and legitimation of American Sign Language. But there were many grim moments too, for Stokoe's wife of forty years, Ruth, had started to show memory lapses, and was now on the tragic, downward path of Alzheimer's disease. He often spoke of what was happening to her, in his letters tome, with a passionate objectivity and a most tender, intimate apprehension of her own, now so greatly altered, emotions and states of mind at once, inseparably, the observer and the lover.
Stokoe's appreciation of the subjective lies at the center of his own being, no less than the phenomenological, the theoretical, the mathematical. He came to Gallaudet, as a young man, to share his knowledge and passion for medieval poetry, for Chaucer. His earlier work had to do with deciphering Chaucer, understanding the meaning of certain previously obscure words and phrases.
This required a huge knowledge of Middle English vocabulary and grammar, and of the poetic devices of the time but it also required a penetration into Chaucer's subjectivity, his sensibilities, his consciousness, his mind and an acute sense of what it must have been like to live in the fourteenth century, of what it must have meant to be Chaucer. Stokoe finally deciphered the words because he read Chaucer's mind, divined his intentions, knew exactly the meaning Chaucer wished to convey.
It was a similar blending of tremendous acuity in observing

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