The power of Language Policy: the legal recognition of Sign Languages and the aspirations of Deaf Communities

Autor/a: DE MEULDER, Maartje
Año: 2016
Editorial: University of Jyväskylä, 2016
Colección: Jyväskylä studies in humanities; 301
Tipo de código: ISBN
Código: 978-951-39-6875-5
Soporte: Digital


Legislación, Lingüística


This thesis explores Sign Language Peoples’ aspirations for the legal recognition of signlanguages, with specific focus on Finland and Scotland. It highlights the timely need to strengthen (in  practice) and  scrutinize (academically) the legal measures that have been achieved as well as their implementation – and to measure all this against the challenges of endangerment and sustaining vitality. The theoretical framework for this study is centred in language policy and planning and political theory. The research methodology draws on principles  of  the  ethnography  of  language  policy  and  uses  two  traditional  qualitative  research methods, that is, interviews and participant observation, plus desk research. Sign Language Peoples’ campaigns for recognition seek a differentiated citizenship – a form of group  representation  rights  which  can  accommodate  their  communities’ particular  needs  and practices. The study identifies five categories of recognition legislation and demonstrates   that  most  legislation  remains  symbolic:  while  some  legislation  grants  instrumental rights to sign languages, legislation establishing or  protecting  educational  linguistic  and  language  acquisition  rights  remains scarce.  This is especially  problematic give  the complex combination of demographic, political, economic, social  and  educational  pressures  facing  Sign Language Peoples’ communities.  The study further  identifies  both  common  ground  with  other  linguistic  and  cultural  minorities and  one  significant difference – that Sign Language Peoples are also perceived and administered as people  with disabilities and, as such,  manifest  dual category  membership.  While  this  should  not  i theory  be  problematic,  in  fact  the  policies  which govern their  lives  traditionally frame them within only one category – as people with disabilities. The study demonstrates how  this  has  negatively  impacted  the  recognition  of  sign  languages and signing communities. It  goes  on  to  analyse  the  highly  politicized  nature  of  sign  language  planning, especially in relation to discourses around the linguistic rights of deaf children. It also critically evaluates the mixed rationales for sign language rights and the justifications on which these rights are based. The evidence suggests that sign language legislation and the  arguments  for  sign  language  rights  are subject  to  a  very  particular  set  of  discourses,  which  expose  them to  a  degree  of  scrutiny  not  experienced  by  discourses  for  spoken  minority language rights and legislation.Comparison of these discourses leads the author of  this  thesis  to  argue  that  it  is essential  that  the  protection  and  promotion  of  sign  languages should include recognition of the multilingual practices of signing communities, and  of  their  group  rights. To conclude, it is argued that recognition legislation should specifically address the issue of vitality and the factors and strategies needed to ensure this vitality,  including  ways  in  which  sign  languages can create new  generations of  users without relying solely on intergenerational transmission.