The subjective vitality of British Sign Language (BSL) and social identity of the UK’s deaf linguistic minority group.

Carlton, Catherine and Westley, David (2006) The subjective vitality of British Sign Language (BSL) and social identity of the UK’s deaf linguistic minority group. In: British Psychological Society Annual Conference., 30 Mar to 01 Apr 2006., City Hall, Cardiff.. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

Objectives: Research suggests that mode of communication plays an integral part of a deaf persons’ identity. Ethnolinguistic Vitality Theory (EVT) proposes that individuals adopt various strategies of ‘psycholinguistic distinctiveness’ and that such strategy have important linguistic correlates such as maintenance, promotion or extinction of a language. EVT suggests that a person’s view of their languages status, demographic strength and institutional support make up the vitality of an Ethno-linguistic minority group. Since, British Sign Language (BSL) has only recently been recognised in Britain as a language in its own right, the primary objective of this research is to explore the implications of recognition of BSL in terms of subjective vitality of the language and its relationship with social identity of the deaf people in the UK. Design: The research is qualitative, based on a naturalistic approach utilising semi-structured, in-depth interviews to explore deaf identities and uncover the meaning of language use for individuals in the deaf community. Methods: An opportunity sample of seven research participants who were born profoundly deaf and whose preferred method of communication was BSL, were recruited by a combination of methods. Interview questions were interpreted into BSL for three out of seven of the participants. Signed responses were translated by the interpreter and recorded onto audiotape. The researcher followed an interview guideline that contained questions relating to participants’ identity and their usage and perceptions of BSL. Results: A thematic analysis identified three central themes within the data: 1. Processes of identity; 2. Strategies used to maintain positive identities; and 3. Tokenisms in recognition of BSL. Conclusions: BSL plays an integral part in the identity for participants in the current study. Participants felt that BSL is important for the future identities of deaf children born to hearing families for communication ease, a sense of inclusion and a positive deaf identity. However, it was also apparent that the participants viewed official recognition of BSL as a token rather than a positive step toward promotion and access to the language.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Poster)
Research Areas:Middlesex University Schools and Centres > School of Health and Education > Health & Education
ID Code:5024
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Deposited On:09 Apr 2010 05:59
Last Modified:06 Feb 2013 12:12

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