Bimodal Bilingual Families: The Negotiation of Communication Practices Between Deaf Parents and Their Hearing Children

  • Ginger PizerEmail author
Part of the Multilingual Education book series (MULT, volume 7)


This chapter addresses the question of successful family language policy in families with deaf parents and hearing children in the United States, based on analysis of videotaped naturalistic interaction in three deaf-parented families and interviews with 13 hearing adults. Such families are commonly bilingual and bimodal, with both a spoken language (English) and a signed language (American Sign Language) in use in family communication. The restricted access that the parents have to the auditory modality as a means of communication limits the linguistic options for effective communication within the family, while the hearing children in these families face pressures toward spoken English including the language use of their peers and salient distinctions between Hearing and Deaf social identities. These families appear to share a language ideology prioritizing the avoidance of potential communication barriers over other influences on language choices. The families’ specific language practices and the children’s fluency in American Sign Language varied significantly, but each family negotiated the potentially conflicting pressures between parent and child preferences and family-internal and family-external ideologies to develop a sustainable pattern of family language use that allowed relatively unimpeded communication between family members. In these families where ease of communication cannot be assumed, achievement of that goal should be considered success for their family language policies.


Language Policy Sign Language American Sign Language Deaf People Deaf Community 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EnglishMississippi State UniversityStarkvilleUSA

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