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Статья

Sign languages in the heritage language context: A new direction in language research

Sign Language Studies. 2018. Vol. 18. No. 3. P. 412-428.

A heritage language is a minority language used in a context where a different language is dominant in the community. Codas (children of Deaf adults) who sign but may be dominant in the spoken language of their community present an interesting case due to the added difference in spoken/signed modality. The relatively new field of research on heritage sign languages builds upon our knowledge of phenomena at play when both the heritage language (HL) and the community language use spoken modality (e.g., varying degrees of proficiency in HL, interference of the community language on HL), as well as issues specific to balanced signed/spoken language bilinguals (e.g., the tendency to use blending, by which is meant simultaneously signing and speaking rather than code- switching). One aspect crucial to the study of heritage language is that of assessment.

Two useful methods used for assessing production are (1) eliciting narratives on the basis of picture books or silent video clips and then measuring the data for features such as the speech rate or number of errors and (2) cloze tests. Methods are also under development to assess comprehension and perception in signed languages. Studying heritage sign languages promises to provide us new insight into strong tendencies already established in heritage spoken languages, such as speakers’ difficulty with optionality and ambiguity, as well as speakers’ better command of verbs in their heritage language than of nouns.