The Sociolinguistics of Sign Languages

By Ceil Lucas | Go to book overview

7
Language attitudes
Sarah Burns, Patrick Matthews
and Evelyn Nolan-Conroy

Which reminds me that the funniest thing I saw over the whole holiday period was the Queen's Speech as interpreted into sign language by a splendid blonde lady in a long blue dress. Her hands flew like birds to convey the message to the deaf; all the relevant emotions crossed her face in a constant flux of sun and cloud. It was an Oscar winner among sign language mimes and nailed alongside her by the miracle of TV technology, the royal visage spoke and stared out in granite immobility. I hope HM and millions of the deaf enjoyed it as much as we did. But my guess is some back-room electronic wizard is making urgent inquiries about emigration.

Reference to British Sign Language in The Guardian, 2 January 1989, reprinted in

Gregory and Miles (1991)

The language stands for being Irish, the whole ethnic component, and it stands for one other thing. It stands for what is old-fashioned, agricultural, archaic, not entirely of this world or this time, and that doesn't help.

Reference to Irish in an interview with Joshua Fishman, 1975, reprinted in Ó Murchú (1994)

We all form attitudes and opinions–sometimes positive, sometimes negative–about languages, such as British Sign Language (BSL) or Irish referred to above, and varieties of languages, such as African American Vernacular English (AAVE) or Received Pronunciation (RP). 1 We may feel that one language or variety is “elegant”, “expressive”, and “musical”, while another is “vulgar”, “backward” and “ugly”. All levels of language use, whole languages, language varieties, pragmatics and discourse, the meaning and structure of words and sentences, and pronunciation and accent, are subject to such opinions and we endow some language forms with prestige, while we stigmatize others.

From the linguistic viewpoint, all languages and all varieties of languages are equal. Evaluative judgments are socially conditioned; the languages, varieties and features that receive less favorable evaluation do so because the individuals who use them are socially stigmatized (Romaine, 1989). Coupland and Jaworski (1997), therefore, warn us that in the examination of language

-181-

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The Sociolinguistics of Sign Languages
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents vii
  • Figures ix
  • Tables x
  • Contributors xi
  • Foreword xv
  • Preface and Acknowledgments xvii
  • Abbreviations xviii
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - Multilingualism: the Global Approach to Sign Languages 8
  • 3 - Bilingualism and Language Contact 33
  • 4 - Sociolinguistic Variation 61
  • Notes *
  • 5 - Discourse Analysis 112
  • 6 - Language Planning and Policy 145
  • Notes *
  • Appendix 6.1 - Statement on the Recognition of the National Sign Languages of the Deaf Passed at the Third European Congress on Sign Language Research, Hamburg (1989) *
  • Appendix 6.2 - World Federation of the Deaf Calls for Recognition of Sign Languages *
  • 7 - Language Attitudes 181
  • Notes *
  • Bibliography 217
  • Index 249
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