When language recognition and language shaming go hand in hand – sign language ideologies in Sweden and Norway
This article focuses on the similar approaches to, yet different contexts of legal recognition of sign languages in Sweden and Norway. We use examples from sign language documentation (both scientific and popular), legislation that mentions sign language, organization of implementation of sign language acquisition, and public discourse (as expressed by deaf associations’ periodicals from the 1970s until today), to discuss the status and ideologies of sign language, and how these have affected deaf education. The legal documents indicate that Norway has a stronger and more wide-reaching legislation, especially sign language acquisition rights, but the formal legal recognition of a sign language is not necessarily reflected in how people discuss the status of the sign language. Our analysis reveals that the countries’ sign languages have been subject to language shaming, defined as the enactment of linguistic subordination. The language shaming has not only been enacted by external actors, but has also come from within deaf communities. Our material indicates that language shaming has been more evident in the Norwegian Deaf community, while the Swedish Deaf community has been more active in using a “story of legislation” in the imagination and rhetoric about the Swedish deaf community and bilingual education. The similarities in legislation, but differences in deaf education, popular discourse and representation of the sign languages, reveal that looking at the level and scope of legal recognition of sign language in a country, only partially reflects the acceptance and status of sign language in general.
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