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Many Ways to Be Deaf

International Variation in Deaf Communities

Leila Monaghan, Constanze Schmaling, Karen Nakamura, and Graham H. Turner, Editors

Publication Year: 2003

The recent explosion of sociocultural, linguistic, and historical research on signed languages throughout the world has culminated in Many Ways to Be Deaf, an unmatched collection of in-depth articles about linguistic diversity in Deaf communities on five continents. Twenty-four international scholars have contributed their findings from studying Deaf communities in Japan, Thailand, Viet Nam, Taiwan, Russia, Sweden, Austria, Switzerland, Great Britain, Ireland, Nigeria, South Africa, Brazil, Nicaragua, and the United States. Sixteen chapters consider the various antecedents of each country’s native signed language, taking into account the historical background of their development and also the effects of foreign influences and changes in philosophies by the larger, dominant hearing societies. The remarkable range of topics covered in Many Ways to Be Deaf will fascinate readers, from the evolution of British fingerspelling traced back to the 17th century; the comparison of Swiss German Sign Language with Rhaeto-Romansch, another Swiss minority language; the analysis of seven signed languages described in Thailand and how they differ in relation to their distance from isolated Deaf communities to Bangkok and other urban centers; to the vaulting development of a nascent sign language in Nicaragua, and much more. The diversity of background and training among the contributors to Many Ways to Be Deaf distinguishes it as a genuine and unique multicultural examination of the myriad manifestations of being Deaf in a diverse world.

Published by: Gallaudet University Press


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pp. v-vii

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pp. ix-xi

The core arguments of this book’s chapters were written before September 11, 2001. This preface was written shortly afterwards. For us, the tragedy of 9–11 makes an international perspective even more important than before, and that perspective is exactly what this book provides. Deaf communities, like all communities, have commonalities and differences. Deaf people in Austria, Japan, and Nigeria are not only Deaf but also Austrian, Japanese, or Nigerian. They live in ...

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1. A World’s Eye View: Deaf Cultures in Global Perspective

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pp. 1-24

There are myriad beginnings to deaf history, such as in 16th-century Spain where a hearing monk named Pedro Ponce de Leo

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2. British Manual Alphabets in the Education of Deaf People Since the 17th Century

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pp. 25-48

The British manual alphabet is a set of 26 hand arrangements that allow the manual representation of English orthography through fingerspelling. This ancient system has changed considerably in form and function throughout history. Originally, hearing people used it, but later, it became a tool to teach spoken and written English to deaf people. This use as a teaching tool led to its becoming a medium of language for deaf people and, ultimately, a part of the natural sign ...

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3. Austria’s Hidden Conflict: Hearing Culture Versus Deaf Culture

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pp. 49-66

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. ...

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4. Pedagogical Issues in Swedish Deaf Education

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pp. 67-88

This chapter brings together two aspects of the Swedish Deaf community. First, we explore how different historical discourses have shaped present ideologies in Swedish Deaf education, including teacher education. Second, we look at what role Swedish bilingual ideology has played in supporting the development of contradictory meanings of Deafness in Sweden, especially in the aftermath of the ...

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5. Romance and Reality: Sociolinguistic Similarities and Differences between Swiss German Sign Language and Rhaeto-Romansh

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pp. 89-113

Switzerland is known and generally admired for the several languages spoken by its citizens living in different regions of the country. The well-known Swiss languages are Swiss German, French, Italian, and Rhaeto-Romansh. Not so well-known or recognized is a fifth language used by many deaf Swiss citizens—Swiss German Sign Language (Deutschschweizerische Gebärdensprache, henceforth ...

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6. The Dilemma of the Hard of Hearing within the U.S.Deaf Community

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pp. 114-140

Members of the American Deaf culture have long taken what is commonly perceived as a disability to be a “way of life,” creating a worldview that maintains a different reality: deafness as the “normal” state of being.1 To be Deaf has traditionally and primarily been defined as using and valuing American Sign Language (ASL) as well as conforming to a set of culturally defined behavioral and ...

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7. Sociolinguistic Dynamics in American Deaf Communities: Peer Groups Versus Families

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pp. 141-152

The importance of the peer group in shaping and determining sociolinguistic behavior has long been noted in studies of spoken languages (see Labov 1972; Milroy 1987; Eckert 1989). The role of the peer group is particularly important in Deaf communities, especially given the fact that no more than 10% of deaf children are born to deaf parents. Consequently, most deaf children do not have native access ...

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8. School Language and Shifts in Irish Deaf Identity

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pp. 153-172

What it means to be Deaf in the Republic of Ireland has been changing over the years (LeMaster 1990; Matthews 1996; Burns 1998). Similarly, what the term Irish Sign Language (ISL) refers to has also been changing (LeMaster 2002b). The sociolinguistic expression of Deafness in Ireland is completely embedded in a particularly Irish way of life. To understand both pathological “deaf” and sociocultural ...

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9. Surdos Venceremos: The Rise of the Brazilian Deaf Community

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pp. 173-193

This account of the Brazilian Deaf community and its language is necessarily localized in time and space and does not pretend to do justice to the richness and variety of the community or the language. A look at a map shows that Brazil is a vast landmass, extending over three climatic zones from north to south and, at its broadest, stretching from the Atlantic almost to the Pacific. Here, diversity is the ...

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10. South African Sign Language: Changing Policies and Practice

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pp. 194-210

In April 1994, South Africa held its first democratic elections, and as a result of the election of the new government, the policy of apartheid that had governed every aspect of the lives of all South Africans was officially abolished. Needless to say, the simple abolition of apartheid did little to affect the many years of profound damage; the heritage of apartheid will be with us for many years to ...

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11. U-Turns, Deaf Shock, and the Hard of Hearing: Japanese Deaf Identities at the Borderlands

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pp. 211-229

A growing body of anthropological and sociolinguistic research (Lane 1976, 1984; Kegl 1994; Senghas and Kegl 1994; Parasnis 1996) has confirmed what Deaf people in the United States have known all along—that schools for the deaf are the birthplace of Deaf communities, Deaf identities, and signed languages. Japan is no different in this respect, although two factors add a particular variation to deaf ...

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12. The Chiying School of Taiwan: A Foreigner’s Perspective

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pp. 230-248

My route to studying sign language in Taiwan was roundabout. I began learning American Sign Language (ASL) in 1977. In the mid-1980s, I spent a year in Beijing, China, teaching English as a foreign language. As a graduate student in linguistics several years later, I decided to write my doctoral dissertation on the phonology and phonetics of signed language in use in Beijing. But by 1989, the People’s ...

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13. The Changing World of the Russian Deaf Community

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pp. 249-259

On September 7, 1995, Igor Abramov, chairman of the Moscow branch of VOG, the All-Russian Federation of the Deaf, was shot dead by a contract killer outside his flat in the Strogino suburb of Moscow. The often violent world of hearing Moscow had impinged on that of the Moscow deaf community. One of Abramov’s last acts was to chair a committee that produced a modest little booklet titled Zhesty (Signs), published only a few days before his death. At the time, the ...

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14. New Ways to Be Deaf in Nicaragua: Changes in Language, Personhood, and Community

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pp. 260-282

The book you are reading presents just a few of the many possible ways of being Deaf.1 Until recently, being deaf in Nicaragua usually offered an existence isolated from other deaf people. Before 1978, there was no established Deaf community in Nicaragua; older deaf people had no ways to pass down the wisdom of deaf experience or to tell stories of the old days. There was no shared sign language. ...

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15. Sign Languages and Deaf Identities in Thailand and Viet Nam

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pp. 283-301

Recent research (Woodward 1996, 1997, 2000, forthcoming) has revealed the existence of at least seven distinct sign languages in Thailand and in Viet Nam. This research has also shown that these seven languages belong to three different language families. Some rather unexpected, surprising relationships have been found among the sign languages, however, that need to be explained. Before attempting ...

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16. A for Apple: The Impact of Western Education and ASL on the Deaf Community in Kano State, Northern Nigeria

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pp. 302-310

Nigeria, with its approximately 100 million inhabitants, is the most populated country in Africa. Hausa is the majority language of much of northern Nigeria and the southern parts of the Republic of Niger. There are an estimated 50 million Hausa speakers of which up to 40 million live in northern Nigeria and up to four million live in Niger (Wolff 1993, 1–2). Colonies of Hausa settlers can also be ...


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pp. 311-312


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pp. 313-326

E-ISBN-13: 9781563682346
E-ISBN-10: 1563682346
Print-ISBN-13: 9781563681356
Print-ISBN-10: 1563681358

Page Count: 338
Illustrations: 7 tables, 25 figures
Publication Year: 2003

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Deaf -- Cross-cultural studies.
  • Culture conflict.
  • Sign language -- Cross-cultural studies.
  • Social adjustment -- Cross-cultural studies.
  • Intercultural communication.
  • Identity (Psychology) -- Cross-cultural studies.
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