Research

July 2018

RESEARCH

(1) Vitality of Flemish Sign Language in Flanders, Belgium

My current research project focuses the vitality of Flemish Sign Language (VGT) in Flanders, Belgium. I use a mixed method linguistic ethnographic approach involving three separate but interrelated components: interviews, language use diaries, and language portraits. I use them to research language practices, motivations and ideologies of 10 deaf and 2 hearing multilingual signers.

I collected data in 2017-2018 in three stages: (1) first interview including narrative of participants’ language biography, reflection on their language practices, and explanation of the use of the language diaries; (2) one week in which informants filled in their diary and (3) second interview including a discussion of the returned diary and participants’ experiences with it, the drawing of a language portrait, and participants’ narrative about it in conversation with me.

The language use diaries were useful to give details about what language or code choices people make and why, which languages are used in which contexts to talk about what and with whom, to reveal specific language ideologies, and to explore how deaf and hearing signers are drawing on their language repertoires in their daily lives. The portraits, combined with the participants’ language biography, reflection on language practices, and language use diaries, revealed, in a visual and creative way, participants’ lived experience of language and communicative practices, and their aspirations, fears and hopes regarding language and communication.

I am currently analyzing data.

(2) Family language policy

In 2018-2019, I will carry out a pilot research project on family language policy with Annelies Kusters and Jemina Napier (both Heriot-Watt University). The project looks at  the practices and ideologies of bimodal multilingual deaf/hearing families against the backdrop of wider discourses. The context of this project is shaped by our own research expertise plus positionality and lived experience. We will do linguistic ethnography; data will include self-recorded video footage of family interactions, observation checklists (‘family language audits’), field notes to complement/consolidate the footage, and interviews to elicit explicit language ideologies.

PUBLICATIONS IN PREPARATION

(1) Documenting advocacy for the legal recognition of sign languages

I am working on an edited volume with Rachel McKee and Joseph Murray which documents advocacy for the legal recognition of sign languages in 19 different countries in northern, southern and central Europe, the United States, South America, Asia and New Zealand. It will be published by Multilingual Matters in 2019. Each chapter describes a country’s campaign, its outcomes in terms of the type of sign language legislation achieved, deaf communities’ expectations for this legislation and, in some cases, looks at the work undertaken in the implementation of the law, including language councils and the policy-making processes post-passage. Chapters set sign language legislation within their national context, with reference to the language policies and the status of other minority languages in that country.