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Editorial CROSS-CULTURAL STUDIES: SIGNED LANGUAGE & DEAF COMMUNITIES In 1989, a small number of papers on Deaf culture were presented at the American Anthropological Association (AAA) meetings held in Washington, D.C. Since the study of culture is the mainstay of anthropological research, the presentation of papers on Deaf culture at a national anthropology meeting would not have been in the least remarkable were it not for the fact that they were included in sessions on disabilities. This association of Deaf culture with disability not so subtly classified Deaf culture uni-dimensionally (concentrating only on the pathological view of a physical difference) and was parochial in its dominant (i.e. hearing) cultural view. It was, to say the least, surprising to find that the anthropological community-an academic tradition long renowned for its practice of cultural study and resistance to ethnocentric bias-could, perhaps unwittingly, demonstrate the same sort of hearing-culture bias so prevalent in the non-academic community. Though the Association has generally been progressive in its (appropriate) placement of Deaf language papers in language sessions, it appeared that the categorization of Deaf culture studies is not always so well-informed. The placement of papers about Deaf culture in sessions on disability spurred a dramatic reaction. It engendered not one, but three sessions devoted to deaf-related topics at the 1990 AAA meetings in New Orleans. These sessions presented ethnographies of Deaf communities, studies of Deaf languages, and papers on deaf education. One focus of these sessions was to include papers on deaf @ 1991 by Linstok Press, Inc. See note inside front cover. ISSN 0302-1475 Editorial communities and languages outside of North America. These sessions reached a large and receptive anthropological audience, because of AAA sponsorship in three of its research divisions: Visual Anthropology, Linguistic Anthropology, and Education and Anthropology. A number of the papers were particularly wellattended , showing the interest of mainstream anthropologists in the broader cultural and linguistic issues evident in Deaf cultures and languages. This special issue of Sign Language Studies contains papers from two of the three sessions presented at the 1990 AAA meetings. It represents a partial conference proceedings of the sessions on Variation in Signed Languages and on Ethnographies of Deaf Communities. Owing to travel plans, scheduling problems, and to earlier publication of some of the papers from the session on Deaf Education, the papers from this third session were not prepared for this issue. It is expected that the remainder of these works, and other papers that could not be included here, will be made available elsewhere. The first four papers in this issue describe signed languages from several cultures: Costa Rica (Woodward), Argentina (Massone & Johnson), the Republic of Ireland (LeMaster & Dwyer), and the United States (Winston). Following these, Carmel & Monaghan introduce the section on ethnography containing four ethnographies of Deaf cultures: two North American deaf communities (Hall, Monaghan), an East Indian deaf community (Jepson), and a Yucatec Mayan deaf community (Johnson). Linguistic variation In deaf sign languages The study of language in its cultural setting, and, in particular, the study of language variation-long an interest of linguists and linguistic anthropologists-is, nonetheless, relatively uncharted when languages under consideration are signed languages. And since cross-cultural research on signed languages is a relatively recent academic concern, it is of more than passing interest to have SLS 73 Winter 1991 this topic so richly represented by the following collection of research efforts. In the first paper, Woodward develops a preliminary typology of the sign varieties he has observed in Costa Rica. He compares lexical data of American Sign Language with these four Costa Rican sign varieties: Original LESCO (a language distinct from North American Sign Language, and used by older signers in this community), New LESCO (used by younger signers in this community), Brunca sign language (used by one group of Boruca Indians), and Bribri sign language (used by one group of Bribri Indians). Through classic glottochronological methods, Woodward determines that each of the five signed languages studied are, indeed, distinct languages. Massone and Johnson, present research on an Argentinean signed language, Lengua de Seilas Argentina (LSA). They show how kinship terminologies in the signed language of Buenos Aires (LSA) differs from...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6263
Print ISSN
0302-1475
Pages
pp. 325-328
Launched on MUSE
2013-10-02
Open Access
No
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