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Sign language planning: Pragmatism, pessimism and principles

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Abstract

This article introduces the present collection of sign language planning studies. Contextualising the analyses against the backdrop of core issues in the theory of language planning and the evolution of applied sign linguistics, it is argued that – while the sociolinguistic circumstances of signed languages worldwide can, in many respects, be treated analogously to those of other minority languages – there are unique features to the socio-political landscape facing signing communities and sign language planners. With reference to topics addressed in this collection (language teaching, codification, education and legislation), the distribution of power emerges as a constant theme, inevitably centred upon the relationship between Deaf people and others. While immense changes in sign language prospects have evidently taken place worldwide over the last half-century, it can be seen that the power balance remains precarious and that major forces continue to align to ensure that sign language planning remains at best an uphill struggle.

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... Seventeen deaf participants were born deaf, and three were deaf because of meningitis (N = 2, acquired at 1 and 2 years old) or measles (N = 1, acquired at age 1.5 years). All deaf participants were bilingual and fluent in written English and British Sign Language (BSL) 30,31 . Most deaf participants learned BSL as children (< 18 years old, N = 14), and the remaining participants learned BSL in adulthood (≥ 18 years old, N = 6). ...
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... This was encapsulated in Haualand and Allen's statement "Deaf People are not able to enjoy human rights" (2009). 3 In addition to a shift in policy philosophy to encompass social justice and capability perspectives, Language planning is also aimed at enabling change aimed at 'solving complex social problems' (Kaplan and Baldauf 1997, p.3). Language planning by governments is known as language policy: it is a mechanism but it is also governed by social forces determining the status and power of dominant and subordinate groups and their struggle to achieve hegemony in language use (Tollefson 1991, Fairclough 1989, Turner 2009). The Deaf community uniquely exemplifies resilience in maintaining signed language irrespective of all previous attempts to eradicate it. ...
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Genetics has great relevance to the lives of deaf people. More than half of all deafness that is present at birth or in early childhood is caused by genetic factors. The reaction of deaf people to genetics has depended, in part, on sociohistorical events of the past and, for some, experiences with genetics professionals who have little or no understanding of the cultural aspects of deafness. Genetics technologies in the last few years have led to an explosion in knowledge regarding the genetic causes of deafness and the characteristics of common genes for deafness. Genetic testing for deafness will become more common in the future and has already begun to affect the lives of deaf people. Genetic knowledge can empower deaf people to make decisions that were never before possible. With these technological advances come ethical considerations that should be of concern to medical professionals and deaf people alike. It is imperative for deaf people to become knowledgeable about genetics technologies and the potential impact on the Deaf community in order to fully participate in discussions with family members, medical professionals, genetics researchers, and genetics counselors regarding the appropriate use of the technologies.
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This study evaluates the prevalence of 35delG GJB2 mutation, the most common genetic mutation causing prelingual deafness, and its screening feasibility and acceptability in pregnant women undergoing first-trimester CVS for chromosomal abnormality investigation. Samples were taken from 5786 pregnant women who requested CVS for chromosomal analysis. The samples were split into two aliquots for chromosome and DNA analysis, respectively. The results of foetal karyotyping were provided 7 days after sampling, at which time the fully informed couple decided whether or not to undergo DNA testing. Of the 5449 eligible candidates, 2997 (55.0%) chose to undergo 35delG testing. Among them, 67 proved to be carriers of the mutation, resulting in a prevalence rate of 1:44.7 (2.23%). There were no homozygous foetuses, but two double heterozygous foetuses were found, and in one case the couple chose to terminate the pregnancy. The results confirm the high frequency of 35delG mutation in the Italian population. The study shows that prenatal screening for GJB2 mutations in pregnant women with no retrospective risk for deafness appears to be feasible and highly acceptable. Consequently, given evidence that early evaluation and treatment significantly improve speech and language skills, as well as social and emotional well-being in affected children, 35delG mutation analysis in pregnant women booking CVS primarily for chromosomal investigation could be considered a useful addition to more comprehensive population screening strategies.
Reviewing and Previewing: On Mediation in Interpreting Studies from a Sign Language Perspective. Paper presented at The Geography of Language- and Cultural-Mediation
  • G H Turner
Language as Territory: Power and Pragmatism in Sign Language Communities
  • G H Turner
  • H Eichmann
Applied Sign Linguistics: Language, Learning and Legacy. Paper presented at the 14th World Congress of Applied Linguistics
  • G H Turner