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Volume Seven: Issue Four

Summer 2007

ARTICLES

Denying Claims of Discrimination in the Federal Court of Australia: Arguments against the Use of Native Sign Language in Education

Linda Komesaroff

Abstract

Bringing Up Baby with Baby Signs: Language Ideologies and Socialization in Hearing Families
Ginger Pizer, Keith Walters, and Richard P. Meier

Abstract

Deaf Cultural Production in Twentieth-Century Madrid
Benjamin R. Fraser

Abstract

Why Does Constructed Action Seem Obligatory? An Analysis of “Classifiers” and the Lack of Articulator-Referent Correspondence

David Quinto-Pozos

Abstract

BOOK REVIEW

Advance to an Ideal: The Fight to Raise the Standard of Communication between Deaf and Hearing People by Stewart Simpson

George Montgomery
ABSTRACTS
Denying Claims of Discrimination in the Federal Court of Australia: Arguments against the Use of Native Sign Language in Education

In this article I analyze two cases that are the result of parents’ complaints against education authorities for alleged indirect discrimination on the basis of their child’s lack of access to instruction through Auslan in regular school settings. Although bilingual/bicultural programs for deaf students in Australia are available in some special schools and deaf facilities, the subject of complaint in these cases relates to the lack of provision of regular classroom staff members who are fluent in Auslan. Both cases were decided in favor of the complainants.

Despite the parents’ calls for Auslan to be used with their deaf children, the formal complaints, and attempts at conciliation, the education providers have maintained a vigorous defense (in one case also appealing the decision of the Federal Court of Australia). It is therefore of potential interest to educational researchers and sign linguists to know how the respondents argued their cases against the use of Native Sign Language (NSL) in the classroom. Legal counsel is bound to represent its clients’ views; therefore, the defendants’ arguments are a reflection of the views and attitudes of the education authorities whom they represent. This article provides a detailed account of their denial of the claims of discrimination. In doing so, it presents perhaps the first comprehensive account in the public domain of the way in which these authorities view NSL and their reasons for denying its use with deaf children for whom Auslan is their first or preferred language.

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Bringing Up Baby with Baby Signs: Language Ideologies and Socialization in Hearing Families

This article presents an analysis of the functional roles of “baby signing” in three hearing families in the United States, as well as a discussion of the social and ideological implications of the practice. Baby signing fits neatly into the parenting ideologies prevalent in the professional class in the United States that value early communication with infants and promote the adaptation of the physical, social, and linguistic environment to their perceived needs. In the details of everyday interaction, these baby-signing families used signs to socialize their children into particular interaction rituals. Although the practice of baby signing is based on a positive view of sign language, the relatively quick disappearance of signing from the family discourse as the children grow older will most likely limit any long-term impact on the hearing community’s views of sign language.

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Deaf Cultural Production in Twentieth-Century Madrid

This article chronicles the recent processes of identity formation among deaf people in Spain, both analyzing Spanish-language poetry published in the journal Faro del Silencio and outlining new directions for research of Deaf culture in Spain in terms of film, theater, visual poetry. It draws attention to the significant connections between the Spanish and American contexts in both the development of deaf history itself and the subsequent theoretical support for Deaf identity in its cultural and linguistic aspects. This essay suggests that the question of a cultural Deaf identity in Spain, and Deaf identities elsewhere, can never be an easy one. The discussion advances the notion that further analyses of Deaf culture and literature in Spain will aid in this process to promote the formation of an inclusive even contradictory identity.

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Why Does Constructed Action Seem Obligatory? An Analysis of “Classifiers” and the Lack of Articulator-Referent Correspondence

This article explores constructed action (a signer’s use of various parts of their body—such as the head, torso, and eyegaze—to depict the actions of a character) and why it appears to be an obligatory accompaniment to some so-called “classifier” (or polycomponential) signs. It is posited that constructed action is used to depict aspects of animate entities because polycomponential signs cannot capture such information, in a simultaneous fashion, on their own. In particular, the conventionalization of entity polycomponential signs, the number and shape of articulators in polycomponential signs, and motoric constraints for polycomponential sign production appear to be factors that could influence the use of constructed action. As such, constructed action appears to be a complementary strategy to the use of polycomponential signs (and perhaps other types of signs and signed language grammar) for communication. Possible reasons for the robustness of constructed action are offered.

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