"Only a small number of the thousands of endangered languages are legally recognized or protected, but among them, the 19 sign languages discussed in this volume show how acknowledgement in national legislation reveals a significant advance in 21st century language management. This collection detailing the way this happened is a major contribution to the study of language policy."

The above quote is from Bernard Spolsky, emeritus professor of linguistics at Bar-Ilan University, IsraeL, reviewing 'The Legal Recognition of Sign Languages', a new book that presents the first ever comprehensive overview of national laws recognising sign languages, the impacts they have and the advocacy campaigns which led to their creation.

Book editors are Maartje De Meulder, Joseph Murray and Rachel McKee, and the book is published by Multilingual Matters (Bristol, UK).


'The Legal Recognition of Sign Languages' (352 pages) comprises 18 studies (in 18 chapters) from communities across Europe, the US, South America, Asia and New Zealand.

Each chapter describes a deaf community’s expectations and hopes for legal recognition and the type of sign language legislation achieved. Each chapter discusses the strategies used in achieving the passage of the legislation, as well as an account of barriers confronted and surmounted (or not) in the legislative process.

The chapters are grounded in a collaborative writing approach between deaf and hearing scholars and activists involved in legislative campaigns.

This book is of interest to language activists in the fields of sign language and other minority languages, policymakers and researchers in deaf studies, sign linguistics, sociolinguistics, human rights law and applied linguistics.


Maartje De Meulder is a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Namur, Belgium. Her research interests include sign language policy and planning, sign language rights, family language policy, multilingualism and sign language maintenance and revitalisation.

Joseph J. Murray is Professor in the Department of American Sign Language and Deaf Studies, Gallaudet University, Washington, DC, USA. A trained historian, his work explores ways in which deaf people navigate their societies as sign language minorities.

Rachel L. McKee is Programme Director of NZSL Studies, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. Her research interests include sign language documentation, sign language policy, sociolinguistic variation in sign language, interpreting, and sign language teaching and learning.

The book (352 pages) is available in hardback, paperback, pdf and ePub format.

ISBN (hardback): 9781788924009

ISBN (paperback): 9781788923996

ISBN (pdf): 9781788924016

ISBN (ePub): 9781788924023

For more information, please visit the publisher's website.


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