William Stokoe is a linguist and pioneer in the study of American Sign Language (ASL). He was the first person to treat sign language as a bona fide language, rather than a form of pantomime or a system of gestures.
Stokoe began his academic career as an English professor at Gallaudet University, a school for the deaf and hard of hearing in Washington, D.C. In the 1950s, he became interested in sign language and began to study it in earnest. Stokoe quickly realized that ASL was not simply a visual representation of English, but rather a unique and complex language with its own syntax and grammar.
Despite facing initial resistance and skepticism from some in the academic community, Stokoe persisted in his research, publishing groundbreaking studies on ASL and the linguistics of sign language. His work helped to establish ASL as a distinct and valid language in its own right, paving the way for increased recognition and support for the deaf community.
Stokoe's contributions have had a lasting impact on the field of linguistics and the study of ASL. He has been recognized with numerous awards and honors for his groundbreaking work, and his legacy continues to inspire new generations of scholars and advocates for deaf culture and language.