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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 The Sign Language Translator and Interpreter (SLTI), cont’d.

Krausneker’s discussion of the position of sign languages within the minority languages policy in the European Union offers a more global approach to language policy. She is concerned with the question (amongst others) of why users of sign languages in Europe have not been accorded the same rights that have been granted to all European minority spoken languages. Krausneker points out that “Users of European sign languages are more numerous than speakers of some European minority languages” (p. 153; emphasis in original). The fact that sign languages have not been recognized in the same way as the minority spoken languages is of even more concern. In summary, the reasons for the current situation seem to be silence and inactivity by the leaders of the EU, in particular members of the European Commission. In addition, the status of deaf people in Europe continues to be viewed as the responsibility of those who work with the disabled, and the sign languages of the deaf communities are not regarded as languages in their own right. This is reminiscent of the situation for deaf people and their language in most Southern hemisphere countries.

In the section on language in education, Fleetwood’s article on ‘Educational Policy and Signed Language Interpretation’ questions the lack of explicitness in goals and processes defining this practice in mainstream educational facilities for Deaf students. The description of practices in the United States is similar to descriptions by other authors of practices in other educational facilities in other countries (Pickersgill 1998:93). The USA is not the only place where there is a lack of empirical evidence on the practice of interpreting in educational settings. Therefore, there is no way of making decisions about which settings are appropriate for interpreted learning, and in which settings or for which age group educational interpreting might not be effective.

The sixth sub-theme of the book is discourse analysis. In this section, Mesch examines the turn taking in signed conversations by deaf-blind people using tactile Swedish Sign Language (SSL). She analyzes the unique strategies of profoundly deaf people using SSL, who then suffer a loss of vision and have to resort to a tactile variety of the language. The visual gestural language can no longer be accessed by visual means, and neither can the usual visual turn taking strategies be effective. Mesch highlights the intense cooperation that occurs between the deaf-blind interlocutors, “so that both may be involved in the dialogue and avoid major misunderstandings” (p. 200). This article is of considerable interest to the many interpreters working with deaf-blind people with Usher syndrome, most of whom are fluent users of a sign language which anecdotally undergoes identifiable changes when it becomes a tactile language. As Mesch recommends, more investigation is required into this issue.

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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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