[P4743] Examining Sign Language Education in the Middle East

Created by Sanaa Riaz
Sunday, 11/19/17 10:30am


This panel is an investigation of the diversity of sign languages spoken by Deaf communities across the Middle East in relation to identity politics, pedagogical styles, interpreting and standardization issues, colloquialisms, and lexical borrowing. Presenters will draw from their scholarly research on the origin, forms, lexicon, and educational cultures of Turkish (T?D), Persian (ZEI), Pakistan (PSL), Afghan (AFSL), and Jordanian (LIU) sign languages.

Marking the earliest evidence of sign language in the Ottoman courts, the panel presenters will examine the milestones in Deaf education in relation to paradigms, state policies, local body initiatives, technological advancement, and advocacy programs for Deaf and hearing family members of the Deaf. Central to the presenters’ analyses is the development of sign languages in Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Jordan in relation to three interrelated phenomena. First, the impact of the ideology of orality, the belief that spoken language is superior to sign language and that signing must mimic spoken language structure. Presenters will elaborate on how orality has led to a sign language educational paradigm emphasizing manually coded language (signing oral language) and fingerspelling, as opposed to developing sign lexicon (vocabulary bank) to facilitate independent communication across various social contexts. Second, presenters will highlight how the lack of emphasis on a broader lexicon has led to a move towards more developed and patronized Western sign languages, such as ASL (American Sign Language), disseminated through Deaf education programs, replacing and/or filling the gaps in the standard register of the sign language. While modern T?D shows no such influence, it can be seen in the case of iconic signs (where the sign mimics its meaning), initialized signs (where the sign corresponds to the first letter of the related spoken language), compound signs (where words are combined), indexical signs (where the signifier is caused by the signified), and facial markers in ZEI, PSL, and AFSL. Third, panelists will examine the involvement of state bodies, linguists, interpreters, hearing teachers, and Deaf community members in using a standardized register, and how this, in the case of LIU, has informed the dynamics of professional services and interpreting cultures.

Through a thorough examination of attitudes towards sign languages and Deaf education in the above-mentioned societies, the panelists seek to assess where Deaf community advocacy and educational programs stand at present, particularly through the aid of apps and cyber informational and social networking forums.


Anthro; Comtns; Educ; Lang; Ling



Sanaa Riaz

(Metropolitan State University of Denver)
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;

Justin Power

(University of Texas at Austin)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Erin Trine

(Western Oregon University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Engin Arik

(Istanbul Medipol University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Chair; Presenter;

Sara Siyavoshi

(University of New Mexico)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;