Sign Language Use in the Jamaican and Dominican Republic Deaf Communities

Society for Caribbean Linguistics 18th Biennial Conference: "Caribbean Languages and Popular Culture", Barbados, The University of the West Indies (UWI), Cave Hill, 9-13 August 2010
15 p.
In February 2009 and September 2008, our sign language assessment team conducted rapid appraisal sociolinguistic surveys with the deaf communities in Jamaica and the Dominican Republic. After background research for both countries, three researchers collected data in six Jamaican and seven Dominican Republic cities through participant observation, sociolinguistic questionnaires, and intelligibility testing of American Sign Language (ASL). While information gathered during background research pointed toward use of ASL in both communities (Warfel 2008 and Gerner de Garcia 1994), many deaf Jamaicans and Dominicans shared with us about the uniqueness of their ethnolinguistic communities and the use of sign languages distinct from ASL: Jamaican Sign Language (JSL), Jamaican Country Sign Language (Country Sign), and Dominican Sign Language (Lengua de Señas Dominicanas - LSD). Deaf survey participants reported that deaf schools are sites of sign language acquisition in Jamaica and the Dominican Republic and that both countries have traditionally used ASL in the classroom. Despite this, intelligibility testing of ASL using the recorded text testing method with nine participants in Jamaica and 11 in the Dominican Republic show that while some members of these communities easily understand ASL, others may not communicate well through ASL or be able to effectively access ASL materials. In addition, participant observation of deaf community events and 28 questionnaire responses indicate deaf attitudes toward ASL vary widely in both countries. While some embrace it as a tool toward upward social mobility and access to the international deaf world, others view it as a threat to their national sign language and deaf culture.
Publication Status:
Draft (posted 'as is' without peer review)
Dominican Republic
Content Language:
Work Type:
sign language
Intelligibility testing
American Sign Language
Nature of Work:
Entry Number: