Abstract

The past three decades of activism for linguistic human rights (Skutnabb-Kangas 2000) have witnessed examples of language planning by various national and supranational actors in national and international spaces, with an exchange of ideas and strategies employed by national, regional, and worldwide organizations. In many countries a key goal of deaf-led advocacy organizations has been promotion of the right to use sign language in a variety of settings, from those involving the larger society to those surrounding deaf children’s use of sign language. These organizations maintain that this is a core right, one that can ensure that deaf people are able to fully participate in society at large. This article traces the formation of a sign language–based human rights discourse by deaf communities and outlines what appear to be the main tenets of this discourse. It examines the historical period preceding the era of sign language legislation to explain why a particular form of language planning—status planning—figures so prominently in legislative measures to date. The application of this discourse can be seen in an overview of the legal recognition of sign language in subnational, national, and international settings. A look at research on the outcomes of existing legislation (and legislative efforts) reveals that subsequent outcomes have not fully realized deaf organizations’ stated linguistic human rights goals. A specific failure noted by deaf organizations is that current legislation has not brought about legally codified sign language rights for deaf children.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6263
Print ISSN
0302-1475
Pages
pp. 379-410
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-08
Open Access
No
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