A Sociolinguistic Profile of the Jamaican Deaf Community

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Statement of Responsibility:
Parks, Elizabeth, Christina Epley and Jason Parks
Series Issue:
SIL International
Publisher Place:
Dallas, Texas
Part Of Series:
SIL Electronic Survey Reports 2011-026
31 pages
This report describes a rapid appraisal sociolinguistic survey done in the Jamaican deaf community in Spring 2009. After six weeks of background research, three researchers collected data in six different Jamaican cities during three weeks in Spring 2009. Survey methods used to report the information given in this report include library research, sociolinguistic questionnaires, and participant observation. Results show that the Jamaican deaf community is functioning in a complex, multilingual situation. Because deaf schools were found to be the primary site of sign language acquisition in the Jamaican deaf community, the Jamaican deaf school system’s movement toward bilingual and bicultural education, the increased use of Jamaican Sign Language (JSL) in the classroom, and the development of JSL resources, points to high vitality of JSL in Jamaica. Although Deaf Jamaicans take pride in JSL as their national language, American Sign Language (ASL) and Signed English are also used as lingua francas throughout the island. Jamaican Country Sign Language, which is used by a decreasing number of deaf Jamaicans in the St. Elizabeth Parish, is nearing extinction and will soon disappear from memory, unless steps are taken to document it. Although social access and deaf rights are increasing in Jamaica, deaf Jamaicans are eager to work toward community and language development, especially in the areas of interpreter training, education, and employment.
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Language surveys
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