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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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The Emergence of the Deaf Community in Nicaragua: “With Sign Language You Can Learn So Much”

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5. As will be explained in more depth in later chapters, I hypothesize that it was the large number of rubella babies born around 1962 (1959–1965) who formed the first group which deaf members refer to as the “deaf community.” Their language abilities mark them as late language-learners. Demographic information indicates that the next rubella epidemic peaked in Nicaragua in 1970. Members born in the 1966–1972 period exhibit linguistic characteristics which suggest that they learned sign language earlier, either as preteens or adolescents. Yolanda and I were searching specifically for deaf persons who had been teenagers before a recognized deaf community existed. Thus, we looked for persons born before the 1970 rubella epidemic. Naturally, we also interviewed persons born during and after that time, but these younger members were much easier to find because they participated regularly in deaf association events. The older deaf adults had to be searched out painstakingly.

6. For example, I leafed page-by-page through each volume of La Gaceta from 1946 to 1990, because there is no index, either comprehensive or for a particular year.

7. The interviews were mostly done by deaf interviewers, who were paid.

8. The first two trips were financed by summer research grants from the University of Redlands, the second two through a Fulbright Foundation teaching/research fellowship, and the last trip was self-financed.

9. In 2004, I was informed of various re-groupings and reorganizations that were contemplated, but not yet completed. These are not included here because I closed the data-gathering phase of my research with the information I collected during my last trip in August 2003. A continuation of the present book will be needed some time in the future, and I hope Yolanda Mendieta will take up the task of documenting the history of deaf people in Nicaragua.

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