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Signed languages and globalization

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 September 2011

Anja Hiddinga
University of Amsterdam, Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Oudezijds Achterburgwal 185, 1012 DK Amsterdam, The
Onno Crasborn
Radboud University Nijmegen, Centre for Language Studies, P.O. Box 9103, 6500 HD Nijmegen, The


Deaf people who form part of a Deaf community communicate using a shared sign language. When meeting people from another language community, they can fall back on a flexible and highly context-dependent form of communication called international sign, in which shared elements from their own sign languages and elements of shared spoken languages are combined with pantomimic elements. Together with the fact that there are few shared sign languages, this leads to a very different global language situation for deaf people as compared to the situation for spoken languages and hearing people as analyzed in de Swaan (2001). We argue that this very flexibility in communication and the resulting global communication patterns form the core of deaf culture and a key component of the characterization of deaf people as “visual people.” (Globalization, sign language, international sign, Deaf culture, language contact, multilingualism)*

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2011

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