HomeBad Ass AsiansJapanese Am who wrote the book on sign language dies at 95

Japanese Am who wrote the book on sign language dies at 95

A Hawaii-born Japanese American who lost her hearing at age 13 and went on to co-author the first dictionary on American Sign Language died in her home at the age of 95, reports the New York Times.

Dorothy Casterline died of complications from a fall in a hospital on August 8 in Irmo, SC.

Born Dorothy Chiyoko Sueoka, she attended Gallaudet, the only university dedicated to educating the deaf and hard of hearing. She was among the first students of color and likely the first to join the faculty there.

A professor named William Stokoe suggested that the two write a book on sign language with Professor Carl Cronenberg who was also deaf. Stokoe was not hard of hearing and had never even studied sign language prior to joining the faculty at Gallaudet.

While he came up with the idea for the book, Professor Pamela Decker Wright at Gallaudet credited Casterline and Cronenberg with doing most of the work.

Their book, Dictionary of American Sign Language on Linguistic Principles is credited with revolutionizing the deaf culture and pushing sign language into American acceptance, according to an obit on Legacy.com.

Casterline also became an advocate for the deaf. She worked with the National Association of the Deaf to remove restrictions in Hawaii in the 1950s that banned the hard of hearing from driving.

She is pre-deceased by her husband of 50 years, James “Jim” Larkin Casterline, Jr, and her two sons Jonathan Paul Casterline and Rex Larkin Casterline. She is survived by two daughters-in-law Mary Teresa Casterline-Heron (Mike) and Renae Esther Casterline and her three grandchildren Anna Teresa Casterline (Elena), Kay Michelle Casterline and Karis Renae Ziesing (Zack), a tribute in Digital Memorial read.

The Times reports their book published in 1965 was not immediately welcomed in the deaf or linguistic communities. The authors argued sign language was a language of its own with a unique set of rules.

By the 1980s, the book became a milestone in the deaf community.

Casterline once said she wrote the book “to show that deaf people can be studied as linguistic and cultural communities, and not only as unfortunate victims with similar physical and sensory pathologies.”

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