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The Legal Recognition of Sign Languages


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Table of Contents

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

Section 1 - Recent Sign Language Laws

Chapter 1. John Bosco Conama:"Ah, That's Not Necessary, You Can Read English Instead": An Analysis of State Language Policy Concerning Irish Sign Language and its Effect

Chapter 2. Sung-Eun Hong, Hyunhwa Lee, Mi-Hye Lee and Seung-Il Byun: The Korean Sign Language Act

Chapter 3. Marie Azzopardi-Alexander, Karl Borg, Dorianne Callus, Keith Callus, Steven Mulvaney, Alison Vere, Annabelle Xerri and Loran Ripard Xuereb : The Road to Maltese Sign Language Recognition

Chapter 4. Lilian Lawson, Frankie McLean, Rachel O'Neill and Robert Brian Wilks: Recognising British Sign Language in Scotland

Section 2 - Implicit Legal Recognition

Chapter 5. Deniz Ilkbasaran and Okan Kubus: A Roof Without Foundation: Shifts in the Legal and Practical Status of Turkish Sign Language (TID) Since 2005

Chapter 6. Soya Mori and Atsubumi Sugimoto: Progress and Problems in the Campaign for Sign Language Recognition in Japan

Chapter 7. Joseph J. Murray: American Sign Language Legislation in the United States

Chapter 8. Maribel Gonzalez, Andrea Perez, Juan Luis Marin and Camila Villavicencio: Towards the Recognition of Chilean Sign Language

Chapter 9. Yann Cantin, Florence Encreve and Marie-Therese L'Huillier: The Societal and Political Recognition of French Sign Language (LSF) in France: 1970-2018

Section 3 - On-going Campaigns Towards Explicit Legal Recognition

Chapter 10. Richard Cokart, Trude Schermer, Corrie Tijsseling and Eva Westerhoff: In Pursuit of Legal Recognition of The Netherlands

Chapter 11. Carlo Geraci and Humberto Insolera: The "Language Issue": The Struggle and Path for the Recognition of LIS

Chapter 12. Arnfinn Muruvik Vonen and Paal Richard Peterson: Sign Language Legislation in Norway

Section 4 - Implementation of Sign Language Laws

Chapter 13. Franz Dotter, Verena Krausneker, Helene Jarmer and Lukas Huber: Austrian Sign Language: Recognition Achieved but Discrimination Continues

Chapter 14. Rachel L. McKee and Victoria Manning: Implementing Recognition of New Zealand Sign Language: 2006-2018

Chapter 15. Valgerdur Stefansdottir, Ari Pall Kristinsson and Julia G. Hreinsdottir: The Legal Recognition of Icelandic Sign Language: Meeting Deaf People's Expectations?

Chapter 16. Ronice Muller De Quadros and Marianne Rossi Stumpf: Recognizing Brazilian Sign Language: Legislation and Outcomes

Chapter 17. Maria Josep Jarque, Marta Bosch-Baliarda and Menchu Gonzalez: Legal Recognition and Regulation of Catalan Sign Language

Chapter 18. Maartje De Meulder and Thierry Haesenne: A Belgian Compromise? Recognising French-Belgian Sign Language and Flemish Sign Language

Chapter 19. Maartje De Meulder, Joseph J. Murray and Rachel L. McKee: Epilogue: Claiming Multiple Positionalities: Lessons from the First Two Decades of Sign Language Recognition

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The most widely representative and contemporary collection on the legal status of sign languages

About the Author

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 American Sign Language 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.


Only a small number of the thousands of endangered languages are legally recognized or protected, but among them, the 19 sign languages discussed in this volume show how acknowledgement in national legislation reveals a significant advance in 21st century language management. This collection detailing the way this happened is a major contribution to the study of language policy.

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

Formal recognition campaigns have recently elevated the 140-year battle for Deaf children's rights to access their sign languages, cultures and Deaf educators to new levels of political discourse. The authors of this book have succeeded magnificently in illustrating current progress and highlighting some of the obstacles which remain to be overcome.

* Paddy Ladd, author of Understanding Deaf Culture *

This is a timely and important book. It provides the first comprehensive analysis of the growing legal recognition of sign languages internationally, as well as the wider social and political advocacy movements underpinning these developments. Drawing together deaf and hearing contributors, academics and activists, this volume traverses the fields of language rights, language policy, and sociolinguistics. Expertly curated, it will be an essential guide and benchmark for academic and legal discussions of sign languages for years to come.

* Stephen May, University of Auckland, New Zealand *

This book gives the reader a deep understanding of the complex process of sign language recognition. It serves as a wonderful source for those who plan to advocate for sign language recognition or who would like to improve the current status and legislation of sign language and rights of its users in their respective countries.

* Markku Jokinen, Finnish Association of the Deaf, Finland *

This is an absolutely fantastic book and it is impossible to even start describing
its richness. Read it!

-- Tove Skutnabb-Kangas * Language Policy (2019) 18 *

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