The Legal Recognition of Sign Languages

Advocacy and Outcomes Around the World

Edited by Maartje De Meulder, Joseph J. Murray, Rachel L. McKee

Publication date:

17 June 2019

Length of book:

352 pages


Multilingual Matters



ISBN-13: 9781788924009

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 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.