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Revitalizing Endangered Languages

Edited by Justyna Olko & Julia Sallabank

Revitalizing Endangered Languages "This guidebook provides ideas and strategies, as well as some background, to help with the effective revitalization of endangered languages. It covers a broad scope of themes including effective planning, benefits, wellbeing, economic aspects, attitudes and ideologies."

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Dissertation Information

Title: The Use of Bimodal Communication by Hearing Female Signers Add Dissertation
Author: Lynn Messing Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: University of Delaware, Department of Linguistics
Completed in: 1993
Linguistic Subfield(s): Sociolinguistics;
Subject Language(s): English
Director(s): Robert Di Pietro
Nancy Schweda-Nicholson
Louis Arena
Juliet Langman
Wendy Samter

Abstract: Bimodal communication (BC) is the introduction of individual signs into a spoken English interaction, or the introduction of individual English words into a signed conversation. It differs from code-switching, as code-switching is usually defined, in that it involves the expression of two codes simultaneously, rather than sequentially. The current research explores the usage and the patterns of occurrence of BC among hearing female signers who are conversing in English. Such an exploration will be useful not only to sociolinguists, but also to psycholinguists, and to linguists in general.

The subjects, who ranged from non-signers to sign interpretation students, were videotaped performing scenarios. An analysis of the tapes revealed that the amount of sign people know affects their BC rate. Between scenarios, there was a linear relationship between signing ability and BC rate. Within scenarios, when the subjects were self-conscious and on their best behavior, the relationship was that of an inverse-U. The skilled signers adapted the amount of BC they used to the social situation. As one subject put it, she could turn her BC usage on and off. Even when they were limiting their BC usage, however, the advanced signers still used more BC during the scenarios than did the non-signers and the beginners.

The type of signs used in BC varied according to skill level in such a way as to indicate that, at least for the more skilled signers, a knowledge of sign does not merely reinforce the use of "mainstream gestures": it actually changes the type of illustrators which subjects use.

BC serves a number of functions, which include trying to improve the transmission of a message, strategic negotiation, and identity marking.

The study of bimodal communication challenges the traditional division between language and gesture. It also provides a bridge among several different areas of study; namely, the research on code-changing, simultaneous communication, and non-verbal communication. Finally, it yields data which psycholinguists can use to help determine how languages are stored and accessed in the mind of a bilingual person.