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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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To the Lexicon and Beyond: Sociolinguistics in European Deaf Communities

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1. American Lewis Weld’s 1845 report on British schools reported signing among students and pantomime and signing by teachers (in Lane 1984).

2. Paddy Ladd (2003) offers a highly informed and detailed discussion of this period of change.

3. British governments had previously taken the view that there was no need to recognize BSL because no other languages are officially recognized in the United Kingdom. However, protected language status was given to other indigenous languages including Welsh, Cornish, Scots, Ulster Scots, Scottish, and Irish Gaelic.

4. This cast of mind is exemplified repeatedly in historical accounts by Deaf people; Paddy Ladd, for instance, cites the example of a Deaf person who behaved in adult life as if her communication were still being policed by an antisign school principal and thus was “afraid” to sign to her own hearing children (2003, 145), with the English language occupying high prestige within the community and its public discourse. See also McLoughlin (1987), Jackson (1990), and Taylor and Bishop (1991).

5. See Padden (1996) and Padden and Rayman (2002) for a discussion of related issues in the U.S. Deaf community and papers in Monaghan et al. (2003) for a related discussion of Deaf communities worldwide.

6. See for details.

7. The researchers’ work was broader in focus than the sociolinguistic issues that are reported here. Phillips was interested in comparative analysis and also gathered data in Finland. All of Dodds’s data were gathered in England and range across issues of education and employment.

8. Interviewees were asked to state their preferred or native language or communication method.

9. SSE originally stood for “Sign Supported English” but has come to be used by signers in the United Kingdom to refer to any form of British signing that is relatively heavily influenced by English. Despite the anomalous terminology, the difference between the historical sense of SSE (which would require full, spoken English “supported” by key signs produced in parallel with English content words) and the signing community’s common usage is well understood by British signers.

10. The claim that “sign language . . . is my language” by a young person whose self-description in terms of linguistic identity is “speak” might be read in a number of ways. One possibility is that the interviewee has a view of signing and speech that, in practice, plays out as “having no overriding preference.”

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