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Signed Language Literacy, Definition of

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

While there is widespread acceptance of signed languages as true languages with linguistic properties, there has not been the same level of discussion as to what defines and constitutes signed language literacy. Since they have no widely accepted written form, could signed languages still be viewed as having literacy? On one hand, some scholars consider them as having no literacy because literacy by itself refers to spoken languages that have written forms. In contrast, other critics believe that signed languages with no written forms do have literacy. They perceive literacy as encompassing not only the spoken (oral) and written (printed) forms but also the signed form. In other words, literacy is an all-encompassing term for every human language, whether it is spoken, written, or signed.

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