Pinky Extension and Eye Gaze: Language Use in Deaf Communities

By Ceil Lucas | Go to book overview

Irish Sign Language:
Ireland's Second Minority Language

Sarah E. Burns

Irish Sign Language (ISL) is the native language of the Irish Deaf community. It is the third indigenous language in Ireland after Irish and English. Over the years, it has been suppressed and subjugated—much like the Irish language—and its use has been forbidden in the schools for Deaf people. More recently, inspired by the Deaf Pride movement in the United States and by the improving status of the Irish language, the Deaf community is demanding that ISL be recognized and used as the medium of education for Deaf children. This paper explores aspects of the Irish Deaf community and its sign language and draws comparisons with the situation of the Irish language in Ireland.

The Republic of Ireland is situated on an island located at the edge of western Europe. The country is made up of the twenty-six counties in the southern part of the island and has a population of approximately 3.5 million people. Ireland has two official languages: Irish, which is recognized as the national and first official language in the constitution of I937, Bunreacht na hÉireann, and English, which is the second official language. Despite the fact that Irish has official status, it is a minority language in terms of its size and use and, like many other minority languages, has a complex and checkered history.

____________________
My sincere thanks to the members of the Dublin and Wicklow Deaf communities ; Dr. J. Kallen, Trinity College Dublin; and Dr. C. Lucas, Gallaudet University, Washington, D.C.—all of whom have provided me with unending support and encouragement. Thank you.
This paper will appear in Visions '97, a collection of graduate student papers, Department of ASL, Linguistics and Interpretation, Gallaudet University, Washington, D.C. It is based on research carried out for a Master of Science thesis at the Department of Clinical Speech and Language Studies, Trinity College Dublin, I993-1995, under the supervision of Dr. J. L. Kallen.

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Pinky Extension and Eye Gaze: Language Use in Deaf Communities
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