South African Sign Language-one language or many? A sociolinguistic question
Debra Aarons, Philemon Akach
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In this article we discuss the signed language used by the Deaf community in South Africa, and examine the historical conditions for its emergence. We describe the legal and actual situation of South Afiican Sign Language in South Africa today, particularly in relation to schooling. We investigate the different factors that underlie the claims that there is more than one sign language in South Africa, and we spell out the practical consequences of accepting these claims without further examination. We assume without argument that Deaf people in South Africa, far from being deficient, or disabled, are a linguistic minority, with their own language, South African Sign Language, and their own culture, South African Deaf culture2. Like everyone else in this post-modernist world, Deaf people have differential membership in many different cultures, on the basis of, for instance, religion, life-style, daily practices, political beliefs, and education. However, what they all have in common is membership in a community that uses signed language, and that socialises with other people who do the same3.