- The non- (existent) native signer: sign language research in a small deaf population
- 9th. Theoretical Issues in Sign Language Research Conference, december 2006
- Book/source title
- Sign Languages: spinning and unraveling the past, present and future: TISLR9, forty five papers and three posters from the 9th. Theoretical Issues in Sign Language Research Conference
- Pages (from-to)
- Pétropolis/RJ, Brazil: Editora Arara Azul
- 978 85 89002 27 0
- Document type
- Conference contribution
- Faculty of Humanities (FGw)
- Amsterdam Center for Language and Communication (ACLC)
This paper examines the concept of a native language user and looks at the different definitions of native signer within the field of sign language research. A description of the deaf signing population in the Basque Country shows that the figure of 5-10% typically cited for deaf individuals born into deaf families does not hold true, and consequently there are very few signers who could be considered native users of the language. As a result, a research methodology has been developed which involves registering sociolinguistic metadata for each informant in order to gauge the extent to which an individual is or is not a native signer. An analysis of the expression of role shift reveals correlations between nativeness and specific aspects of language use, and suggests that the examination of non-native language production may provide important insights into grammaticalization processes and language structure in general.
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