A sociolinguistic survey report of the Deaf people of Paraguay

Statement of Responsibility:
Parks, Elizabeth and Jason Parks
A rapid appraisal sociolinguistic survey of the sign language used in Paraguay, Lengua de Señas del Paraguay (LSPY), was conducted in November and December of 2008. Its purpose was to investigate the sociolinguistic situation of the Paraguayan Deaf community and their use and development needs of LSPY, a language that was previously unidentified in the Ethnologue. Over three weeks, our survey team visited five Deaf communities in the cities of Asunción (and the surrounding metropolitan area), Itaugua, Coronel Oviedo, Caaguazú, and Ciudad del Este. Using sociolinguistic questionnaires and participant observation, we explored the general social situation of the Deaf community and sociolinguistic topics, such as ethnolinguistic identity, language vitality, and language standardization. Our preliminary findings indicate that Deaf people in Paraguay share a unique ethnolinguistic experience as the Deaf Paraguayan Community. They embrace LSPY as their native language, and although it has historical connection to Uruguayan Sign Language, it is now distinct and well developed. LSPY vitality is high as Deaf Paraguayans show pride in their language and cultural community, they use LSPY in central aspects of their life, and it is being incorporated more into deaf education. There is some LSPY variation throughout Paraguay, but the community is working to standardize it through interpreter training and LSPY dictionary projects. The Paraguayan Deaf community wants to pursue more LSPY research and documentation so that it can gain recognition and become an official language of Paraguay.
20 pages
Language surveys
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