Language policy and planning: the case of Italian Sign Language

Autor/a: GERACI, Carlo
Año: 2012
Editorial: Sign Language Studies, Vol. 12, nº 4 (2012) pp. 494-518
Tipo de código: Copyright
Soporte: Digital




It is widely known that supranational institutions and organizations, like the United Nations and the European Commission, encouraged national governments to recognize national sign languages as the languages of their Deaf communities. Nonetheless, Italy has not yet recognized Italian Sign Language (LIS) as the official language of the Deaf community in Italy. At present, a number of proposals are still awaiting discussion by the Italian Parliament, which has postponed consideration of them for many years. Despite the general unconcern for LIS at the highest levels of national political institutions, local governments provide help and financial support for local integration projects, especially those involving deaf children. Within this institutional picture, LIS is quite viable and visible throughout the country. For instance, national TV news broadcasts are interpreted several times every day (by both public and private broadcasting corporations), and messages in LIS are commonly used to inform Deaf people of major events (such as national and regional elections and national referenda). Furthermore, signers may have an interpreter when asked to be present in court for trials. Moreover, the main Deaf organization, namely, Ente Nazionale Sordi, which is widespread in Italy, actively collaborates with both local and national institutions, especially to promote the use of LIS by deaf and hearing children in bilingual school programs. Ente Nazionale Sordi (ENS) also provides language courses for hearing adults who are interested in LIS and for interpreters who want specialized instruction. In this article, we describe the current situation of the Italian Deaf community and the status of its sign language. Starting with the latest national law on language minorities (482/1999), we explain some of the reasons that LIS has not yet been recognized as the official language of the Italian Deaf community. We then focus on some of the most relevant initiatives entertained by local governments, ENS, and universities in order to strengthen LIS and make it more visible to the hearing community. Since a lack of standardization might partly explain why LIS has not yet been recognized, we disentangle this issue by illustrating some interesting results of a recent sociolinguistic investigation. The picture that we draw shows that LIS is ready to be officially designated as the language of the Italian Deaf community.