The Legal Recognition of Sign Languages: Advocacy and Outcomes Around the World

Edited by: Maartje De Meulder, Joseph J. Murray, Rachel L. McKee

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This book presents the first ever comprehensive overview of national laws recognising sign languages, the impacts they have and the advocacy campaigns which led to their creation. It comprises 18 studies from communities across Europe, the US, South America, Asia and New Zealand. They set sign language legislation within the national context of language policies in each country and show patterns of intersection between language ideologies, public policy and deaf communities' discourses. The chapters are grounded in a collaborative writing approach between deaf and hearing scholars and activists involved in legislative campaigns. Each one describes a deaf community's expectations and hopes for legal recognition and the type of sign language legislation achieved. The chapters also discuss the strategies used in achieving the passage of the legislation, as well as an account of barriers confronted and surmounted (or not) in the legislative process. The book will be of interest to language activists in the fields of sign language and other minority languages, policymakers and researchers in deaf studies, sign linguistics, sociolinguistics, human rights law and applied linguistics.

Only a small number of the thousands of endangered languages are legally recognized or protected, but among them, the 19 sign languages discussed in this volume show how acknowledgement in national legislation reveals a significant advance in 21st century language management. This collection detailing the way this happened is a major contribution to the study of language policy.

Bernard Spolsky, Emeritus, Bar-Ilan University, Israel

Formal recognition campaigns have recently elevated the 140-year battle for Deaf children's rights to access their sign languages, cultures and Deaf educators to new levels of political discourse. The authors of this book have succeeded magnificently in illustrating current progress and highlighting some of the obstacles which remain to be overcome.

Paddy Ladd, author of Understanding Deaf Culture

This is a timely and important book. It provides the first comprehensive analysis of the growing legal recognition of sign languages internationally, as well as the wider social and political advocacy movements underpinning these developments. Drawing together deaf and hearing contributors, academics and activists, this volume traverses the fields of language rights, language policy, and sociolinguistics. Expertly curated, it will be an essential guide and benchmark for academic and legal discussions of sign languages for years to come.

Stephen May, University of Auckland, New Zealand

This book gives the reader a deep understanding of the complex process of sign language recognition. It serves as a wonderful source for those who plan to advocate for sign language recognition or who would like to improve the current status and legislation of sign language and rights of its users in their respective countries.

Markku Jokinen, Finnish Association of the Deaf, Finland

This will be a welcome addition to the library of anyone interested in sign language status, language planning, advocacy, and broader areas of legal strategy and rights for deaf people and other sign language users from both language rights and disability rights perspectives.

Sign Language Studies, Vol. 20 No. 4 Summer 2020

This is an absolutely fantastic book and it is impossible to even start describing
its richness. Read it!

Language Policy (2019) 18

This book is obligatory for those interested in matters regarding the strengthening and protection of the rights of deaf communities and their languages all over the world. The book is a fitting tribute for those campaigners who have fought for the 'legal recognition of sign languages' as official languages in different countries.

Roberto De Freitas Junior, University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The text is an extremely useful and valuable resource which offers new information and fresh insights. One of the major strengths of this publication is the fact that the individual chapters not only provide historical perspectives but also recount very recent social events and movements. I particularly enjoyed reading about the recognition of those sign languages that are relatively under-represented in the language planning literature.

Language Problems and Language Planning 44:2

Maartje De Meulder is Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Namur Institute of Language, Text and Transmediality (NaLTT), University of Namur, Belgium. Her research interests include sign language policy and planning, sign language rights, family language policy, multilingualism and sign language maintenance and revitalisation.

Joseph J. Murray is Professor in the Department of American Sign Language and Deaf Studies, Gallaudet University, Washington, DC, USA. A trained historian, his work explores ways in which deaf people navigate their societies as sign language minorities.

Rachel L. McKee is Programme Director of NZSL Studies, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. Her research interests include sign language documentation, sign language policy, sociolinguistic variation in sign language, interpreting, and sign language teaching and learning.

Maartje De Meulder, Joseph J. Murray and Rachel L. McKee: Introduction: The Legal Recognition of Sign Languages: Advocacy and Outcomes Around the World

Section 1 – Recent Sign Language Laws

Chapter 1. John Bosco Conama:"Ah, That's Not Necessary, You Can Read English Instead": An Analysis of State Language Policy Concerning Irish Sign Language and its Effect

Chapter 2. Sung-Eun Hong, Hyunhwa Lee, Mi-Hye Lee and Seung-Il Byun: The Korean Sign Language Act

Chapter 3. Marie Azzopardi-Alexander, Karl Borg, Dorianne Callus, Keith Callus, Steven Mulvaney, Alison Vere, Annabelle Xerri and Loran Ripard Xuereb : The Road to Maltese Sign Language Recognition

Chapter 4. Lilian Lawson, Frankie McLean, Rachel O'Neill and Robert Brian Wilks: Recognising British Sign Language in Scotland

Section 2 – Implicit Legal Recognition

Chapter 5. Deniz İlkbaşaran and Okan Kubus: A Roof Without Foundation: Shifts in the Legal and Practical Status of Turkish Sign Language (TİD) Since 2005

Chapter 6. Soya Mori and Atsubumi Sugimoto: Progress and Problems in the Campaign for Sign Language Recognition in Japan

Chapter 7. Joseph J. Murray: American Sign Language Legislation in the United States

Chapter 8. Maribel González, Andrea Pérez, Juan Luis Marín and Camila Villavicencio: Towards the Recognition of Chilean Sign Language

Chapter 9. Yann Cantin, Florence Encrevé and Marie-Thérèse L'Huillier: The Societal and Political Recognition of French Sign Language (LSF) in France: 1970-2018

Section 3 – On-going Campaigns Towards Explicit Legal Recognition

Chapter 10. Richard Cokart, Trude Schermer, Corrie Tijsseling and Eva Westerhoff: In Pursuit of Legal Recognition of The Netherlands

Chapter 11. Carlo Geraci and Humberto Insolera: The "Language Issue": The Struggle and Path for the Recognition of LIS

Chapter 12. Arnfinn Muruvik Vonen and Paal Richard Peterson: Sign Language Legislation in Norway

Section 4 – Implementation of Sign Language Laws

Chapter 13. Franz Dotter, Verena Krausneker, Helene Jarmer and Lukas Huber: Austrian Sign Language: Recognition Achieved but Discrimination Continues

Chapter 14. Rachel L. McKee and Victoria Manning: Implementing Recognition of New Zealand Sign Language: 2006-2018

Chapter 15. Valgerður Stefánsdóttir, Ari Pall Kristinsson and Julia G. Hreinsdottir: The Legal Recognition of Icelandic Sign Language: Meeting Deaf People's Expectations?

Chapter 16. Ronice Müller De Quadros and Marianne Rossi Stumpf: Recognizing Brazilian Sign Language: Legislation and Outcomes

Chapter 17. Maria Josep Jarque, Marta Bosch-Baliarda and Menchu González: Legal Recognition and Regulation of Catalan Sign Language

Chapter 18. Maartje De Meulder and Thierry Haesenne: A Belgian Compromise? Recognising French-Belgian Sign Language and Flemish Sign Language

Chapter 19. Maartje De Meulder, Joseph J. Murray and Rachel L. McKee: Epilogue: Claiming Multiple Positionalities: Lessons from the First Two Decades of Sign Language Recognition

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