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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).

$63.50s

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The Sixth Volume in the Sociolinguistics in Deaf Communities Series

From APA Review of Books, cont’d.

Yet, language educators are often unclear about this distinction and other aspects of bilingual development, whether in early childhood or later in life (i.e., the stages and phases of bilingualism, the various profiles sand types of bilinguals, the varying patterns of language use, factors affecting language choice and code-switching patterns, and the resulting transfer or interference that accompany bilingual behavior and use). Clear understanding of all such aspects of bilingualism (both societal and individual), will help researchers, educators, and policymakers to better nurture and support bilingualism rather than impede its development for both deaf and hearing learners alike. Moreover, it points to how members of marked (or minority) communities cannot only expand and enrich their own culture (in this case, deaf culture) while also participating in a wider society. This might alleviate the concerns of those engaged in deaf education, many of whom struggle to preserve and protect the integrity of deaf culture without fully realizing how they can also facilitate participation in the wider world beyond. In a sense, deaf individuals, like their peers in hearing ethnic minority groups, share many sociopolitical similarities aside from the differences specific to their won group. The similarities that marked populations share are important to recognize and might prove useful for deaf individuals to retain identity while engaging in a wider society.

Concepts about bilingualism and biculturalism, bilingual development and dual language use, sociolinguistic variables and contextual code switching, and code mixing, apply, then, to all individuals participating in more than one language-culture group. For this reason, it is important that these concepts constitute part of a useful body of literature that can advance our understanding of the possibilities of deaf individuals when interacting with hearing persons. The intersection and interaction of deaf and hearing people, in fact, occur in ways reminiscent of persons dealing with others across languages and cultures. How intercultural contact occurs; the processes that unfold; the choices, options, and consequences that ensue; and the levels of intercultural competence that develop all influence our perception of bilingual and bicultural individuals, whether across ethnic groups or between deaf and hearing communities. As one reads through this volume, one further realizes that, like with most cultures, intercultural diversity also exists among deaf individuals and their cultures. This is reflected in the variety of viewpoints presented in articles focused on Mexico, Nicaragua, and the United States. All of these remind us of the varied perspectives that exist among the deaf and deaf educators and how deafness is viewed and characterized by the wider culture that surrounds it.

This volume and, indeed, the entire series help further our understanding of deafness and of deaf individuals, deaf culture, and deaf communities. Together, the articles inform our perception of the deaf and signal a growing emphasis on deaf children as bilinguals in keeping with the series’ themes. What is less obvious, although equally important, is that the articles also further our understanding of all individuals, cultures, and communities, whatever communication system is used. We expect research about unmarked communities to provide insights to researchers of marked communities. What we do not also anticipate, ironically, is that research about marked communities, like the deaf community, can be even more powerful in contributing to our understanding of everyone else. This is what this series and this work both show us.

-- Alvino E. Fantini, School for International Training, Kipling Road, Brattleboro, Vermont

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

$63.50s

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