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Austria''s hidden conflict: Hearing culture versus Deaf culture

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Abstract

The goal of this chapter is to examine the situation of deaf people from an Austrian perspective and to compare this situation to general patterns of social behavior. A key characteristic of the situation is the conflict between hearing and deaf culture, rarely perceived by the larger Austrian society. We see only its result: the suffering of the people in a weaker position-deaf people themselves, many times hearing parents of deaf children, and sometimes interpreters and teachers. The effects of this conflict include inadequate access to the benefits of hearing society, ostracization, illness, and frustration. This conflict has deep-seated, partially tabooed, multifaceted causes. In many hearing and deaf people-possibly also in ourselves, one hearing and one deaf researcher-there are at least residues of thought patterns and behaviors that promote these problems instead of solve them. Before we discuss how this conflict manifests itself today, however, we will look at its origins by considering the history of deaf people in Austria.
... 4 It is conventional in sign language literature to gloss the meanings of signs in small caps (SIGN). 5 American Sign Language is about 250 years old (Padden, 2010), Australian Sign Language is at least 170 years old (Johnston & Schembri, 2007), Russian Sign Language is 200 years old (Bickford, 2005), and Austrian Sign Language is about 150 years old (Dotter & Okorn, 2003). 6 For an extensive discussion on cross-linguistic identification of word classes see Evans (2000: 708-720). ...
... However, recent research suggests that the actual percentage of deaf persons born to deaf parents is even lower -less than 5% (Mitchell & Karchmer, 2004). 12 All of the sign languages in which the noun-verb distinction has been found thus far are established sign languages of deaf communities that have been in use for 150 years (Austrian Sign Language (ÖGS), Dotter & Okorn 2003) or more (ASL is around 250 years old, Padden 2010). 13 The actual stimuli were in the form of color photographs rather than line drawings. ...
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Many sign languages have semantically related noun-verb pairs, such as ‘hairbrush/brush-hair’, which are similar in form due to iconicity. Researchers studying this phenomenon in sign languages have found that the two are distinguished by subtle differences, for example, in type of movement. Here we investigate two young sign languages, Israeli Sign Language (ISL) and Al-Sayyid Bedouin Sign Language (ABSL), to determine whether they have developed a reliable distinction in the formation of noun-verb pairs, despite their youth, and, if so, how. These two young language communities differ from each other in terms of heterogeneity within the community, contact with other languages, and size of population. Using methodology we developed for cross-linguistic comparison, we identify reliable formational distinctions between nouns and related verbs in ISL, but not in ABSL, although early tendencies can be discerned. Our results show that a formal distinction in noun-verb pairs in sign languages is not necessarily present from the beginning, but may develop gradually instead. Taken together with comparative analyses of other linguistic phenomena, the results lend support to the hypothesis that certain social factors such as population size, domains of use, and heterogeneity/homogeneity of the community play a role in the emergence of grammar.
... There are many arguments against the sign languages which consider that sign languages are not proper languages in linguistic perspective because of lack of many missing features i.e. arbitrariness, morphology and colors of spoken language. On the counter part of these arguments, many linguistic researches have come forward that proved the sign languages not only have linguistic status (Dotter and Okorn, 2002) but also they are natural languages with complex structures and an independent grammar (Emmorey, 2001). ...
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This study was conducted to investigate the benefits of sign language for deaf students. The study was descriptive in nature and teachers of deaf were the sample of the study selected by using simple random sampling technique. A total number of 40 teachers of deaf from four schools were the participants of the study. For the purpose of collecting specific information, a structured questionnaire was developed on the basis of 5-Point Likert Scale. Collected data was tabulated and analyzed by using descriptive and inferential.The study showed that sign language is significantly beneficial language instrument for deaf students in classroom learning.
... In contrast, the oral method, established at a deaf school in Leipzig, Germany, was subsequently adopted by other German-speaking countries as well as educators based in parts of Scandinavia and Italy (McBurney 2012). In the United Kingdom and Austria, it is believed that a combined system of sign and speech was in use (Dotter and Okorn 2003; Kyle and Woll 1985). Whatever the medium of instruction, sign languages were able to flourish as pupils continued to sign outside of the classroom. ...
Chapter
Multilingualism, the use of two or more languages by an individual or a community is described as a ‘powerful fact of life around the world’ (Edwards 1994). If we consider that there are an estimated 195 countries in the world today against the 7,106 living languages listed in the Ethnologue, we might assume that for most of the world's population, multilingualism is a common occurrence (Lewis, Simons, and Fennig 2013). But what do we mean by multilingualism? Research in this field is interested in how languages coexist alongside other languages and the factors that contribute to the various multilingual environments throughout the world. For example, people who know more than one language may or may not be equally proficient in each of their languages; they may only be as proficient as is necessary and their use of different languages may be confined to specific social settings or groups. The extent to which these language communities interact with one another may also vary. Additionally, some languages may not have any official recognition within the nation states in which they are found, and this may affect how these languages are perceived by others. When we consider sign languages, we find many examples of multilingualism that parallel those described for spoken languages. In this chapter, we describe how multilingualism is a fact of life for nearly (if not all) signing individuals. We begin with a brief description of sign language as languages in their own right followed by a description of the different environments in which sign languages can thrive and the patterns of transmission that define them so that one can appreciate where, why, and how sign languages exist today. We also describe the types of multilingual environments that characterize the lives of deaf individuals and the factors that contribute to or against multilingualism.
... They are generally working very well for people who had some experience of spoken language before becoming deaf; the rate of success in cases of deafness from birth being lower and subject of some controversies (cf. [2] and chapter 8). ...
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An essential improvement of the access of deaf people to educa-tion, information and modern communication methods can only be reached by comprehensive interdisciplinary applied research and the use of modern ICT. In order to guarantee an optimal development in this respect, two main conditions have to be fulfilled: First, the situation and needs of the sign language us-ers have to be clearly acknowledged (especially in comparison to other hearing impaired people). Second, the intellectual, sci-entific, organisational, and political barriers for the necessary developments have to be brought to the attention of all decision-makers so that they can be removed. The paper recommends major changes and measurements in order to realise the very positive programmatic declarations on inclusion optimally.
... There is one factor that the languages studied to date have in common: their age. All of the sign languages in which the noun-verb distinction has been found thus far are established sign languages of deaf communities that have been in use for 150 years (Austrian Sign Language (ÖGS), Dotter & Okorn 2003) or more (ASL is around 250 years old, Padden 2010). They are still very young compared to spoken languages, but we lack documentation from their early stages of development which makes it unclear whether the noun-verb distinction arose from the very beginning in these languages or whether it developed gradually, over several generations of signers. ...
Thesis
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Is a distinction made between the two most basic categories of words – nouns and verbs – present in the earliest stages in the history of a language? Or do such distinctions develop gradually over several generations of language users? Does language age alone play a role in distinguishing lexical categories, or is it possible that other social factors are involved? Researchers have found differences in form between semantically and formationally related nouns and verbs in several sign languages (Supalla & Newport 1978, Johnston 2001, Hunger 2006, Kimmelman 2009), suggesting that sign languages generally are likely to make such a distinction. However, all the languages studied are at least 200 years old, and nothing is known about how and when this distinction arose. The present study investigates formal differences in semantically and formationally related pairs of nouns and verbs (e.g., DOOR and OPEN-DOOR) in two very young sign languages which arose under extremely different social circumstances. One is Israeli Sign Language (ISL), formed under creolization conditions, with a community of ~10,000 deaf signers throughout Israel today. The other is Al-Sayyid Bedouin Sign Language (ABSL), which arose in a small, insular village, with ~150 deaf signers today. It was found that ISL consistently distinguishes between nouns and related verbs, while in ABSL no reliable distinction was found. It is suggested that it is not only age but different social factors, such as shared context and the size of a community, play a role in the development of grammatical structure such as marking lexical categories. I developed a set of elicitation materials consisting of 24 pairs of pictures depicting concrete objects and people manipulating these objects. The pictures were presented in a mixed order. The data were coded for the following properties: manner of movement, frequency of movement, directionality, mouthing, relative size of the signs, and use of size-and-shape specifiers. Only those pairs of semantically related nouns and verbs that are also formationally related in both languages – such as HAMMER and TO-HAMMER – were included in the analysis. Using the same elicitation materials for both languages, it was found that ISL consistently distinguishes nouns from verbs in the pairs, with a different kind of marking typically found on each part of speech. For instance, verbs usually exhibit continuous movement and their corresponding nouns restrained movement. In ABSL, no reliable distinction was found for any of the features. The findings suggest that factors other than age can influence the development of a linguistic feature in a young language: both languages under investigation are in their third generation, yet ISL has developed a means for distinguishing nouns from verbs in the related pairs, while ABSL has not. The results of this study are seen as supporting the hypothesis of Meir et al (2010) that there is a relation between social factors surrounding the emergence of young languages and the development of linguistic structure.
... Due to shortcomings in deaf education yet existent in several countries (for Austria, cf. [3], [4]), deaf people often lack a sufficient competence in writing and reading (as spoken language is the main basis for learning the written language). As a consequence, they are not only cut off from acoustically offered information but often also from written information. ...
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Full-text available
An essential improvement of the access of deaf people to education can only be reached by comprehensive interdisciplinary applied research and the use of modern ICT. In order to guarantee an optimal development in this respect, two main conditions have to be fulfilled: First, the situation and needs of the sign language users have to be clearly acknowledged (especially in comparison to other hearing impaired people). Second, the intellectual, scientific, organisational, and political barriers for the necessary developments have to be brought to the attention of all decision-makers so that they can be removed. The paper recommends major changes and measurements in order to realise the very positive programmatic EU-declarations on inclusion optimally.
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The paper addresses the situation of sign lan-guage users (mostly deaf people) in the context of inclusion as a political goal. For several reasons, there is often still some confusion with the terms of deaf and hearing impaired. In order to overcome this confusion, a survey is given over the needs of people who have a sign language as their pre-ferred language as well as the needs of people who decide on preferring spoken language (mostly hard-of-hearing people). One should also doubt that the whole target group of people with disabilities in the hearing area consists of two separate groups only. Starting from the right of self-determination, the better solution seems to be the individual right of a per-son to choose any offers which are useful for her/him. As for other groups of people with special needs, ICT is seen as a big chance for improving their situation in terms of life and job chances. Several projects and experiences are reported.