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

Hardback - 344 pages
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30 Jun 2019
234 x 156


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 nineteen Sign Languages now acknowledged in national legislation reveal a significant advance in twenty-first century language management. This collection of chapters detailing the way this happened is a major contribution to the study of language policy.

- Bernard Spolsky, Emeritus, Bar-Ilan University, Israel

Author Biography:

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 ASL 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.

Readership Level:

General, Postgraduate, Research / Professional, Undergraduate

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