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1. Sociolinguistic variation and language contact in the Deaf Community
Deafness Cognition and Language Research Centre
2. The sociolinguistic variable Fasold (1990): alternative ways of saying the same thing, although the alternatives will have social significance
Milroy (1987) the bits of language..associated with sex, area and age sub-groups in a complicated way; a sociolinguistic variable is a linguistic element (phonological usually, in practice) which co-varies not only with other linguistic elements, but also with a number of extra-linguistic independent social variables such as social class, age, sex, ethnic group or contextual style.
3. Variable units in spoken languages Segments of sounds/phonology: assimilation, weakening, consonant deletion, substitution, addition
Variation is highly systematic
4. Variation in American Sign Language Early observation of variation: 1875 by the Principal of the Californian School for the Deaf in Berkeley which refers to lexical variation
Croneberg (1965) in the first dictionary of ASL refers to variation: cultural and social aspects, economic status, patterns of social contact, and the factors that contribute to social cohesion
Refers to both horizontal (regional) variation and vertical variation (social stratification) being present in ASL
5. Pioneering research Lexical variation:
Woodward (1976): African Americans, Shroyer & Shroyer (1984)
Battison et al (1975): thumb extension in FUNNY, BLACK, BORING, CUTE - compositional features and not a relationship between linguistic variation and social factors,
Woodward et al (1976): face to hand variation where New Orleans signers produced certain signs on the face which Atlanta signers produced on the hands
Woodward and De Santis (1977): one handed/two handed forms of the sign - compositional variation. Southerners/non Southerners. Older/younger, African Americans/white signers
6. Diachronic variation
Historical change presents itself first in the form of variation: different ways of saying the same thing whether those are sounds, parts of signs or grammatical structures, coexisting within the language.. Frishberg (1975)
Milroy (1992) ..it eventually gives way to the use of one form to the exclusion of the other
Historical precedent: change from Old English to Middle English to Modern English; Latin to Romance languages - synchronic variation
7. Recent studies in ASL Lexical variation: more studies of social and occupational categories, gender differences, signs for sexual behaviour and drug use, interpreters, DeafBlind people
Phonological variation: Metzger (1993): handshape of 2nd and 3rd person pronoun, Lucas (1995) DEAF, Pinky extension: Hoopes (1998) and Kleinfeld and Warner (1996): signs used to denote gay, lesbian and bisexual persons: correlation with person’s own identity
8. Fingerspelling: Battberg et al (1995) younger people use fingerspelling for proper nouns and English terms with no ASL equivalence but older people also resembled the use of locative signs, Maryland/Massachusetts in frequency of use, men/women.
Discourse: Haas et al (1995) in relation to Deafblind: backchanelling, turntaking and question forms. Touch is often substituted for gaze.
9. Other research Woll and Sutton-Spence (1999): older signers used more fingerspelling and less clear mouthing patterns than younger people who showed more influence from English:
Small number of Deaf families; discontinuity between generations
Changes in the educational system for Deaf people
Changes in technology
10. Day (1995) found that signers from deaf and hearing families signed differently
Le Master and Dwyer (1991): differences in men and women in Irish Sign Language due to segregation of schools
Johnston, Schembri & Goswell (2006): phonological variation of location. Signers (205) from a variety of backgrounds, learnt sign at age of 7; THINK, NAME and CLEVER showed influence of linguistic and social factors - age, gender and region. Posed the question of lexical frequency.
11. Bilingualism It is probably true that no language group has ever existed in isolation from other language groups, and the history of languages is replete with examples of language contact leading to some form of bilingualism.
12. Deaf people are everywhere!
13. Useful reading: Ann, J. (2001). Bilingualism and Language Contact. In C. Lucas (Ed.), The Sociolinguistics of Sign Languages (33-60). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
14. Why am I interested in this area? My mother and aunt went to school at St Mary’s Delgany, at Portsea, Victoria, Australia.
Her first language was Australian Irish Sign Language My father went to school at the Victorian School for Deaf Children, St Kilda, Melbourne, Australia.
His first language is Australian Sign Language (Auslan).
15. What research has been done Lots of research into how sign languages and spoken languages come into contact
But VERY little research into contact between sign languages.
David Quinto Pozos published the only PhD in the world on contact between sign languages: ASL and Mexican sign languages on the USA-Mexico border
16. Example of spoken language bilingualism: Canada Canada is considered a bilingual country but most Canadians are monolingual.
There are many languages spoken but English and French are the most well known
There were laws which discriminated against French speakers
Until the 1960s French speakers were very poor
After that, French speakers became more politically aware and active.
17. Canada.. Even though French and English are both world languages, both have never been at parity
One interesting outcome:
The more bilingual our children become, the more they use English; the more they use English, the less they find French useful; the less they find French useful, the more they use English. The paradox of French-Canadian life is the following: the more we become bilingual, the less necessary it is to be bilingual
18. Other bilingual countries Belgium: French speakers (Walloons) and the Flemish speakers (Flemings)
Singapore: 77% Chinese, 15% Malay, 6% Indian, 2% others. There are 4 main languages: Mandarin, Malay, Tamil and English, but they are not all equal.
19. Societal bilingualism Deaf Communities
Martha’s Vineyard: for 250 years this community had a high % of deafness. The last person died in the 1950s. People learnt sign language in childhood and did not seem to be concerned that sign language was different
If there were more deaf than hearing there, everyone would speak sign language
20. Societal bilingualism Deaf Communities Desa Kolok - Bali: 43 kolok in a village of 2,000 people: everyone can sign and Deaf are full members of society.
Mayan village - Mexico. 13 Deaf in a village of 400 people: all hearing adults can sign. But Deaf have a lower marriage rate, and do not access the majority of discourse which is in Mayan.
No evidence that society forced a sense of majority/minority based on hearing status
21. Bilingualism in most of the Deaf world Most Deaf people live in societies that are dominated by hearing people
This ensures that sign languages will come into contact with spoken languages: eg schools
Research has shown that sign languages are full languages but many parts of the world have not caught up with research
There is a great diversity of bilingualism in the Deaf world.
22. Different kinds of sign bilingualism Native signers of SL who are fluent in a spoken language (reading, writing and speaking);
Native signers of SL who read and write a spoken language fluently but do not speak it;
Native signers of SL who are fluent to varying degrees in reading and writing a spoken language;
Deaf signers of a SL as a second language who read and write a spoken language fluently but do not speak it;
Second language signers who first learnt a signed version of a spoken language;
Native signers of SL who learnt another sign language as a second language;
First/second language SL signers who speak a spoken language
23. Diglossia Occurs when two varieties of one language exist in the same community: H and L
Perhaps there is a diglossia in the Deaf Community.
Deuchar (1984): Diglossia in British Sign Language Function
24. Language shift Happens when a community give up their language and use another language
Examples: native Americans. It happens in both immigrant and non-immigrant communities
Changes in BSL - a result of this?
loan vocabulary. Borrowing between signed languages not the same as borrowing between spoken languages
Fingerspelling - not English but from the orthographic (writing) system of English?
25. Loan phenomena in sign languages Fingerspelt loan signs
Syntax restrictions: most are nouns. More nouns than verbs and not possible to inflect fingerspelt verbs
Loan vocabulary from sign languages with character signs: Taiwanese sign languages
Mouthing: adverbials, English mouthing
26. Code switching and code mixing Both refer to a switch from one language to another
Code switching: across the borders of a sentence
Code mixing: within a sentence
Does not refer to speaking only within a signed sentence
Phonological, morphological, syntactical, lexical and pragmatic features are often produced simultaneously, assigning stretches of discourse to ASL or to English seems like a fruitless exercise and also misses the point. The point is a third system which combines elements of both languages and may also have some idiosyncratic data
Lucas and Valli (1992:108)
27. Code blending Emmorey (2003) refers to code blending
Bimodal (sign-speech) bilingualism differs from unimodal (speech-speech) bilingualism with respect to the temporal sequencing of languages during code-mixing.
ASL-English bilinguals produce code-blends, rather than code-switches. Bimodal bilinguals do not stop speaking to sign or stop signing to speak. Sign and speech is simultaneous when in a bilingual mode of communication. In general, code-blends are semantically equivalent in ASL and English
28. Conclusion There is a lot of language contact between spoken and sign language communities
There are parallels with many spoken language communities.