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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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Bilingualism and Identity in
Deaf Communities

Melanie Metzger, Editor

Now in Paperback!

Read chapter one.
Read reviews: Studies in Second Language Acquisition, APA Review of Books, The Sign Language Translator and Interpreter (SLTI).


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The Sixth Volume in the Sociolinguistics in Deaf Communities Series

From APA Review of Books, cont’d.

Subsequent sections on multilingualism and language policy and planning contain articles that examine the communicative strategies that deaf individuals develop on their own in addition to the educational policies and practices that influence their developmental processes. Varied views of deafness, deaf communication, and deaf education are explored through separate studies conducted in Barcelona, the European Union, and Mexico. In another section on language in education, issues of signed language interpretation, standards for professional interpreters, and approaches to interpretation are explored. Many of these issues are familiar to those concerned with interpretation across other languages as well. Another section on discourse analysis investigates turn taking among deaf individuals in Sweden and again is reminiscent of turn-taking phenomena explored among hearing speakers, often reflecting patterns embedded in their societal cultures.

Finally, of great interest to all individuals, deaf and hearing alike, is the discussion of language as the most fundamental human paradigm and how all language systems both reflect and affect the development of one’s ability to perceive, conceptualize, express, and interact within the world. This topic is always intriguing, but especially so when we examine how the worldviews of the hearing, blind, or deaf are mediated given their different modes of developing communication. The second part of this issue concerns how individuals, given their separate and different worldviews, adjust and accommodate for communication to take place across interlocutors and across cultural backgrounds. Such intercultural accommodation processes, of course, have been consistently examined in the field of intercultural communication, but an understanding of the alternatives and possibilities would seem immensely applicable to an exploration of interactions between deaf and hearing individuals. Again, a parallel might be drawn between how minority language users accommodate to the worldview of mainstream language users (e.g., Albanian speakers interacting with English speakers) or the reverse (which is less common given differentials in power and hierarchy). The relationship of a deaf individual interacting with hearing speakers surely must evoke a number of parallels. In the case describe in Blackburn’s article, for example, “The Development of Sociolinguistic Meanings: The Worldview of a Deaf Child,” the deaf child is clearly enculturated to the dominant perspective of hearing parents. Like the ethnic minority speaker, the deaf child learns to accommodate to his or her interlocutors to the extent possible and within constraints that only he or she experiences. As the author notes, “hearing individuals (the parents in this case), coupled with the absence of deaf adults, construct the ‘problem of deafness’ worldview” (p. 223). This insight into how the “problem” is delineated has far-reaching consequences.

Throughout this volume, the notion of becoming bilingual (or multilingual, in many cases) is especially important. Yet, in my own experience, I have found that “bilingualism” is not always well understood by educators involved with both the hearing and the deaf. For one, the phenomena related to bilingual “societies” (in which many individuals living alongside each other may in fact be monolingual in only one code or another ) must be clearly distinguished from those related to the bilingual “person” (in which the locus of bilingualism is in each individual speaker or signer). This important distinction can lead to some very significant considerations.

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Melanie Metzger is Professor and Chair, Department of Interpretation, Gallaudet University, Washington, DC.

ISBN 978-1-56368-589-7, ISSN 1080-5494, 6 x 9 paperback, 320 pages, references, index


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