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Investigating deaf children’s plural and diverse use of sign and spoken languages in a super diverse context

  • Ruth Swanwick EMAIL logo , Sue Wright and Jackie Salter


This paper examines the meaning of plurality and diversity with respect to deaf children’s sign and spoken language exposure and repertoire within a super diverse context. Data is drawn from a small-scale project that took place in the North of England in a Local Authority (LA) site for deaf education. The project documented the language landscape of this site and gathered five individual case studies of deaf children to examine their plural and diverse language practices at home and at school. Analysis of the language landscape and case studies from this context is undertaken in order to define and exemplify deaf children’s language plurality and diversity in terms of context and individual experience. Concepts of repertoire are explored with particular reference to the unique type of translanguaging that the plural use of sign and spoken languages affords. Implications of these preliminary insights are discussed in terms of the development of methodologies that are sensitive to the particular translanguaging practices of deaf children, and approaches to pedagogy that are appropriately nuanced and responsive to deaf children’s language plurality and diversity.

Funding statement: Funding: This project was supported by the British Academy under Grant number MD130070. No financial benefits have arisen from this research and there are no conflicts of interest.


We would like to thank all the children and their and the families; the school and deaf education service staff for participating in this study. Thank you also to Ausra Raulusonyte and Samyia Ambreen for help with the Punjabi, Urdu and Lithuanian transcripts.


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Appendix 1: Language landscape protocol

1 Government census information

  1. Size of population

  2. Comparison to other Local Authorities

  3. Breakdown of population by gender and age groups

  4. Nationalities within the population

  5. Ethnicities within the population

  6. Dominant languages used by residents

  7. Household languages used within the population and how proficient residents are at English

2 Local authority deaf education caseload population

  1. Numbers of children (0–19) on the caseload

  2. Age ranges (as numbers and a percentage)

  3. Level of deafness (as numbers and a percentage)

  4. Numbers of children with CIs

  5. Number of children in mainstream, resourced provision, Schools for the Deaf

  6. Ethnicity and nationality within the caseload

  7. Languages used within the caseload including sign languages

Appendix 2: Case studies protocol

1 Information from teacher’s written reports on individual pupils

  1. Educational background and management: Experience of pre-school support and school placement

  2. Individual language resources: Repertoire of expressive and receptive sign and spoken language skills

  3. Contexts of language use: Language exposure and use at home, school and other settings

  4. Language assessment information: Measures, tools and protocols used to assess children’s language development

  5. Individual language assessment data and reports

  6. Language learning trajectory: Target areas for receptive and expressive language development

2 Teacher interview

  1. Languages used by children and adults in your school.

  2. Languages the child is exposed to in school in different contexts.

  3. Languages that the child uses in school in different contexts.

3 Parent interview

  1. The languages that you and your family use at home.

  2. Who uses these languages, and when?

  3. Languages that your child uses at home.

4 Child interview

  1. Languages that your family use at home.

  2. Who uses these languages, and when

  3. Languages that you use at home.

  4. Languages that you use in school.

5 Observation

  1. The child in different situations in the school context (small group, shared reading; mainstream classroom; lunchtime, playtime)

  2. The child in conversation with parent(s) about a school or home activity.

Published Online: 2016-5-31
Published in Print: 2016-6-1

©2016 by De Gruyter Mouton

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