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6. British Sign Language


Subject Linguistics » Applied Linguistics

Key-Topics sign

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405138093.2005.00011.x


The study of British Sign Language (BSL) can inform the field of applied linguistics by providing an insight into a native British minority language with a language community unlike any other. Close and culturally informed study of this often misunderstood language can provide insight into issues of language planning, with its related topics of acquisition, second language learning and testing, language teacher education, language attrition and maintenance, and lexicography. When studying the implications of minority status on any language it is useful to consider the reality facing users of a language whom the majority society frequently sees as disabled English users. The threats facing BSL have important implications for social, regional, and situational variation in a language where native speakers are greatly outnumbered by non-native speakers. BSL is the language of Britain's deaf community. Within this simple statement are four essential ideas: it is a language, it is British, it is a visual language created by a community of people who cannot hear spoken language under normal conditions, and it is used by an identifiable social language community. Throughout history the status of BSL and other sign languages has been denied: Gesture languages have been observed among the lower-class Neapolitans, among Trappist monks … among the Indians of our western plains … and among groups ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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