John D. Bonvillian; Nicole Kissane Lee; Tracy T. Dooley; Filip T. Loncke

Published On


Page Range

pp. 55-92

Print Length

37 pages

3. Deaf Persons and Sign Languages

  • John D. Bonvillian (author)
  • Nicole Kissane Lee (author)
  • Tracy T. Dooley (author)
  • Filip T. Loncke (author)
Chapter 3 introduces the reader to various aspects of sign languages, including their historical development and use within educational contexts by Deaf communities in Europe and the United States. Also covered is the initiation of the field of sign language linguistics by William C. Stokoe, a linguist who systematically proved that American Sign Language (ASL) was indeed a language with its own distinct structure and properties that differed from any spoken language. The phonological parameters of signs receive considerable attention, highlighting ways in which the unique properties of sign languages allow them to represent meaning in ways that are more consistently transparent and iconic than similar phenomena in the speech modality. Despite these similarities across sign languages, the differences among the sign languages of the world led Deaf persons to create and develop the lingua franca of International Sign (previously Gestuno) for use at international conventions. Finally, the similarities and distinctions between the processes of language development and acquisition across the modalities of speech and sign are discussed, as well as how signing benefits the learning of spoken language vocabulary by hearing children.


John D. Bonvillian


Nicole Kissane Lee


Tracy T. Dooley


Filip T. Loncke