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Sign language planning: Pragmatism, pessimism and principles

See more: Sign Languages: the Future

Graham H. Turner, Centre for Translation & Interpreting Studies in Scotland, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, UK

In: Current Issues in Language Planning, 10, 243-254, 2009


This article introduces the present collection of sign language planning studies. Contextualising the analyses against the backdrop of core issues in the theory of language planning and the evolution of applied sign linguistics, it is argued that – whilst the sociolinguistic circumstances of signed languages worldwide can, in many respects, be treated analogously to those of other minority languages – there are unique features to the socio-political landscape facing signing communities and sign language planners. With reference to topics addressed in this collection (language teaching, codification, education and legislation), the distribution of power emerges as a constant theme, inevitably centred upon the relationship between Deaf people and others. Whilst immense changes in sign language prospects have evidently taken place worldwide over the last half-century, it can be seen that the power balance remains precarious and that major forces continue to align to ensure that sign language planning remains at best an uphill struggle.