“The Future of Sign Languages throughout the World” will be presented by Albert Bickford at 8 p.m. June 15 in Room 3, Gamble Hall, as part of the UND Summer Institute of Languages colloquium series.
With all the attention given to language endangerment and revitalization in recent years, sign languages have (as usual) been neglected. Some sign languages, too, are endangered, although this depends greatly on the type of signing community they are associated with. Two major types are recognized: deaf communities and shared-signing communities, which differ in how they come into being, how the language is transmitted from one generation to the next, and the types of threats they face. Of these, shared signing communities are much endangered, as demonstrated by a survey of sign languages in Ethnologue. Revitalization efforts have only just begun, and so far have concentrated on strengthening sign languages that are still vigorous; very little has been done besides some documentation of dying sign languages. (This research was conducted jointly with Melanie McKay-Cody, and has been accepted for publication in the Routledge Handbook on Language Revitalization.)