Just talked with John (my husband) on the topic --

The signing community in the 19th century was very aware of ASL being
a language. They didn't use modern linguistic terminology but it was
accepted as the norm. How do we know this? Some people were concerned
with the methodical signs (Proto-SEE) vs. natural language (ASL).
Others wrote about children knowing "unnatural language" when they
came to school -- what is now called home signs.

The greatest evidence of this is that proponents of oralism
intentionally tried to eradicate sign language. If ASL wasn't a
language, something that they recognized as being carriers of a
non-hearing culture, then they would have kept it in their toolbox.
The avowed oralist son of Edmund Booth even called ASL the "weed
language" because it kept popping up like, well, weeds. :)

John says that there is more information in the book
Nineteenth-Century Deaf Education and the Growth of Deaf Culture by R.
A. R. Edwards.

What Stokoe did was to bring ASL to linguistics. A story for another time. :)

Adrean Clark

Author and Artist

On Fri, Jul 24, 2015 at 7:43 PM, Adam Frost <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> You are right that post Milan was a great reason for a lot of the ideas we
> fight now, but they were there even before. Maybe not as articulated, but
> they were. My understanding is that there were a select few who casually
> thought that sign languages were true languages, but they probably wouldn’t
> have said it so directly because it wasn’t something that most hearing
> people would accept even before Milan.
> Adam



Valerie Sutton
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