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Sign Language, Endangered

  • By: Alexander D. Smith
  • In: The SAGE Deaf Studies Encyclopedia
  • Edited by: Genie Gertz & Patrick Boudreault
  • Subject:Physical Disabilities, Otorhinolaryngology (Ears, Nose, & Throat)

A recent increase in work related to village sign languages has greatly expanded our knowledge about the types of sign language that exist, how they are maintained in small communities, and how they are being lost. This entry focuses on very fundamental issues in sign language endangerment, including (1) how many sign languages there are, (2) how many people use these languages, and (3) how endangerment affects these languages.

The issue of language endangerment and language loss in general is the most pressing issue facing not only linguists but also society as a whole. The loss of a language means the loss of an immeasurable amount of information. Several sources have proposed estimates predicting the percentage of languages that will be lost in the near future. ...

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