Northwestern Events Calendar


Angela Nonaka: TALK BEAUTIFUL: Investigating (im)Politeness in Ban Khor Sign Language and Reconsidering Discourses of Dearth about Village Sign Languages

When: Monday, September 25, 2017
3:00 PM - 5:00 PM  

Where: 1810 Hinman Avenue, 104, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Public - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Contact: Nancy Hickey   847.467.1507

Group: Anthropology Department

Category: Lectures & Meetings


Anthropology Colloquium

Severely under-described and endangered, ‘indigenous’ or ‘village’ sign languages are a rare type of manual-visual language that develops in restricted settings—i.e., small communities with large deaf populations; high degrees of kinship; labor-intensive economies; and low degrees of occupational and educational differentiation between deaf and hearing people. This language variety begets an unusual kind of speech/sign community where large portions of the hearing population learn to sign, where there are positive language ideologies about sign language, and where communicative interactions are inclusive of deaf people.

Poorly understood typologically, this type of sign language is a popular vehicle among formal linguists for theorizing questions of language emergence and complexity. Their claims, however, are increasingly at odds with those of anthropologists studying the same languages and communities. In formal linguistic studies of village sign languages, the dominant professional linguistic ideological discourse is one of dearth that emphasizes what such languages purportedly lack compared to dominant national sign languages.

Using case study analysis of a village sign language in Thailand, this presentation examines (im)politeness in Ban Khor Sign Language (BKSL). A language universal feature that is markedly under-investigated vis-à-vis languages expressed in the manual modality, the presence of (im)politeness, plus other speech acts and discourse genres, underscores BKSL’s status as a full-blown and fully complex sign language. Necessitating reconsideration of prevailing discourses of dearth about indigenous sign languages, the Ban Khor case study also highlights the enduring theoretical significance and methodological utility of anthropological study of extent linguistic and cultural diversity.

ASL Interpretation will be Available.

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