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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.

The second paper which focuses on discourse analysis is just that - an analysis of a videotaped interview of a Deaf Argentinian woman using Argentine Sign Language (LSA). A full description of the interview and the video scenes is provided in the paper, as well as samples of the kind of conversational, turn taking and narrative strategies used by the interviewee. The reasons for defining this as an ‘interview’ are given, as well as the reasons why it is not a normal conversation. The empathy of the film maker with the interviewee is admitted, so that the power relationship between interviewer and interviewee is clear.

The last sub-theme of this book is language attitudes. Two articles appear in this section. The first is the investigation by Blackburn of a child’s acquisition of a worldview within his home environment, as development of sociolinguistic meaning is observed (the child’s name is Henry): “This chapter presents Henry’s unique worldview, as well as detailed descriptions of his interactions with his immediate and extended family members during a ten-month period” (p. 219). The chapter provides a unique insight into a four-year-old’s ability to orient himself within his hearing family as a deaf person, and is priority reading for any parent or educator seeking more information or guidance on the learning experiences and sociolinguistic development of deaf children.

The second article in this section is an exciting report on the roots of the Nicaraguan Deaf Community and the development of the Nicaraguan Sign Language (NSL). It highlights the development of the language in parallel with that of the community after 1968, and reports on the memories of those who lived in Nicaragua before and during the growth of a Deaf community. With the support of hearing parents and educators who believed in the right of natural communication for the deaf, young deaf people began to gather together and converse in a language that became the commonly accepted form of NSL. No evidence of a Deaf community exists before the l970s, and no evidence of the development of a sign language either. This chapter provides a unique insight into the development of a Deaf community and its sign language which is rarely available to us in recorded history.

In summary, this volume contains a variety of articles which demonstrate the equally varied perspectives on bilingualism and identity in deaf communities around the world. From contact between sign and spoken languages, to the education of deaf children, to the development of a deaf community with a common sign language, this book is not only a welcome addition to the Sociolinguistics of Deaf Communities series, but can also stand alone as a welcome text for all readers interested in all elements of sign bilingualism and the identity of deaf people.

The perspectives in this book on the development of childhood bilingualism, cultural development, and attitudes to sign language use in various countries of the world provide significant information for all sign language interpreters. Some of the chapters eloquently discuss issues which interpreters face every day in real situations, and hence interpreters will find this volume very reassuring in understanding the difficult task we undertake in our career.

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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