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Language Policy and Planning for Sign Languages

Timothy G. Reagan

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The 16th Volume in the Sociolinguistics in Deaf Communities Series

From Language Policy, cont’d.

       Chapter Four examines the nature and development of MSCs for use in deaf education while illustrating how the development and use of these systems function as language planning. Reagan presents a careful analysis of MSCs in the United States demonstrating how they, unlike language creation efforts such as Esperanto, are artificial systems invented to represent spoken languages in visual form and therefore constitute varieties of spoken languages rather than sign languages. Next, Reagan achieves his objective of bringing attention to LPP issues unique to sign languages by critiquing the limitations of and objections to MSCs, which he concludes “constitute a series of efforts to impose language on a dominated and oppressed cultural and linguistic minority group” (p. 153).

       Chapter Five explores the language planning efforts for sign languages across the globe. This chapter develops definitions of status, corpus, acquisition, and attitude planning for sign languages and provides examples of how these take shape in international contexts. The development of Gestuno, an international sign language, is briefly described followed by a case study of language planning for South African Sign Language.

       In the final chapter, Reagan punctuates the themes of power and inequality in language planning for sign languages that undergird the previous chapters. He takes up Tollefson’s (1995) aim to “link ideology and the analysis of power relations to language policy in education” (p. 1). Reagan cautions against adopting the dominant paternalistic paradigm from which much of the language planning efforts for sign languages have emerged. He asserts that the key to achieving this type of hearing hegemony is for deaf communities to take an active role in language planning activities.

       This pioneering hook measures up remarkably to the tall order of bringing together the work of scholars in two disciplines to explicate the concomitant links between sign language in deaf education and language planning for sign languages. If it falls short, perhaps it does so in the concluding chapter. Designed to “include[e] recommendations for future language planning efforts for sign languages” (p. xviii). Readers may wish for a more clearly defined path than what is presented. Nonetheless, with this book Reagan has laid a solid foundation upon which researchers and educators from an array of disciplines will find support for exploring and advancing LPP activities for sign languages.

Timothy G. Reagan is Dean of the Graduate School of Education at Nazarbayev University in Kazakhstan.

Print Edition: ISBN 978-1-56368-462-3, ISSN 1080-5494, 6 x 9 casebound, 270 pages, 21 figures

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E-Book: ISBN 978-1-56368-463-0

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