The notion that the visual communication of the Deaf was a language analyzable with the tools provided by descriptive linguistics came into being with William C. Stokoe. His Sign Language Structure (1960) was the first modern attempt to devise a descriptive system of American Sign Language (ASL) based on the identification of phonological, morpholog-ical and syntactic features. The attempt to identify a phonological level in sign languages, named cherology by Stokoe, will be investigated com-paring it to his later and less known essay Semantic Phonology (1991). This comparison will show that the idea of cherology proposed in 1960 has, ever since its own inception, proven to be difficult to adapt to some structural aspects of sign languages. Regarding the importance of Stokoe’s theory on the history of sign language studies, the influence of his work on the first linguistic description of Italian Sign Language (LIS) will be discussed. His highly valuable support is testified by a notebook exchanged for more than one year between him and Virginia Volterra.
I segni nel dominio della linguistica: la rivoluzione di William Stokoe / Bonsignori, Chiara. - (2021), pp. 521-529. (Intervento presentato al convegno Atti del I Convegno CISPELS tenutosi a Roma).