A chereme, as the basic unit of signed communication, is functionally and psychologically equivalent to the phonemes of oral languages, and has been replaced by that term in the academic literature. Cherology, as the study of cheremes in language, is thus equivalent to phonology. The terms are not in use anymore. Instead, the terms phonology and phoneme (or distinctive feature) are used to stress the linguistic similarities between signed and spoken languages.
The terms were coined in 1960 by William Stokoe at Gallaudet University to describe sign languages as true and full languages. Once a controversial idea, the position is now universally accepted in linguistics. Stokoe's terminology, however, has been largely abandoned.
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